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Published: Wednesday, 7/30/2008

Insurance exec, banker was a quiet benefactor

Samuel G. Carson, center, conducts a meeting in 1972 of the management team formulating new policies for what was at that time Toledo's biggest bank. Samuel G. Carson, center, conducts a meeting in 1972 of the management team formulating new policies for what was at that time Toledo's biggest bank.
HANDOUT FAMILY PHOTO; NOT BLADE Enlarge

Samuel G. Carson, 94, an insurance executive and head of Toledo's biggest bank - the former Toledo Trust Co. - whose record of civic service stretched long past retirement, died from complications of a stroke yesterday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue.

Mr. Carson, of Ottawa Hills, remained an active board member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo, as he'd been since June, 1956.

"He benefited thousands of kids in the half-century he served on our board," said Dave Wehrmeister, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs who knew Mr. Carson for 34 years.

"He had commanded a great respect he had earned in a lifetime of service to others."

His influence in business and in civic and charitable ventures was widely felt, but occurred mostly behind the scenes.

"He didn't make it look like he was trying to do that," said Richard Anderson, chairman of The Andersons. "He never went overboard. He knew how to get involved.

"I used him as a mentor," Mr. Anderson, 79, said. "He was wonderful to observe closely and say, 'So that's the secret.' Sam Carson was an expert on what not to do. Sam was very focused and organized and always positive. With Sam, intellect came through."

Samuel G. Carson, center, conducts a meeting in 1972 of the management team formulating new policies for what was at that time Toledo s biggest bank.
Samuel G. Carson, center, conducts a meeting in 1972 of the management team formulating new policies for what was at that time Toledo s biggest bank.
Enlarge

Mr. Carson's son Russ said: "Dad wasn't one of those people who needed everyone to know everything he was doing. He didn't need to take credit for everything."

Mr. Carson retired in October, 1978 as chief executive officer of Toledo Trust, a post he held for a decade. He also retired from Toledo Trust's parent company, Northwest Ohio Bancshares, which he headed from its founding in 1970. He had retired as president of the companies in 1976, when he was named chairman of the board.

During his tenure, Toledo Trust's assets grew from $460 million to $850 million and its net worth from $48 million to $90 million. From 1970 until his retirement, the bank's earnings more than doubled.

At his retirement, the growth was credited to the creation of Northwest Ohio Bancshares under his watch. The holding company - later renamed Toledo Trustcorp - had acquired other northwest Ohio banks and ranked at the top among the nation's largest banking institutions in return on average assets and growth in share earnings.

Toledo Trust, by reputation at least, was the bank of the well heeled. Under Mr. Carson's watch, the bank set out to expand its market. More money was loaned to more people than before.

When the bank reached a milestone in 1972 - half-a-billion dollars in assets - Mr. Carson told The Blade that Toledo Trust's new goals were not a repudiation of the past. Rather, the bank realized that a broad market "is where the future of the banking business lies," he said then.

He'd only been with Toledo Trust 11 years when he retired from day-to-day management. He was named executive vice president in November, 1967, and, a month later, became a director.

Toledo Trust was formed in 1923 through the merger of two institutions, and Mr. Carson was its fourth president when he took that post in 1968. It was one of only two Toledo banks to survive the Great Depression intact.

Mr. Carson remained as chairman of the bank and the holding company until 1984. George Haigh succeeded him as chairman, as he had six years earlier as chief executive and eight years earlier as president.

For more than three decades before Toledo Trust, Mr. Carson's career was insurance.

He came to Toledo in 1936 as manager of the group department of John A. Hill & Associates, an Aetna Life Insurance Co. agency. In 1940, he went to Boston as field supervisor of Aetna agencies in the northeast.

He served as a purser in the Merchant Marine during World War II. He rejoined the Aetna agency in Toledo in 1945 as assistant general agent. He was a general agent by 1952. The firm name was changed to Hill, Carson & Associates in June, 1957, and to S.G. Carson & Associates in August, 1958.

In 1960, the firm became the first tenant in the Libbey-Owens-Ford Building on Madison Avenue. In 1967, it became Carson, Bayer & Associates, with Mr. Carson as board chairman. He left that position and relinquished his part-ownership in 1970, about two years after his took the helm of Toledo Trust.

Many years in the 1950s and 1960s, the agency made headlines as the leader in sales among Aetna agencies.

Mr. Carson graduated from high school in his native Glens Falls, N.Y. He had degrees from Dartmouth College and its Tuck School of Business Administration.

In 1934, he became an Aetna group representative in Nashville.

Mr. Carson was a volunteer and served on boards and committees, in addition to the Boys and Girls Clubs, for decades.

"Dad believed that business and community service go hand-in-hand," his son Russ said. "If you're part of the business community, you should be part of the larger community."

Mr. Carson was a longtime board member of the Toledo Museum of Art and was a former board president. He and his wife, Alice, were benefactors for the museum's Glass Pavilion.

He was a former board chairman of what is now the Greater Toledo Chapter of the American Red Cross. In 2001, he was one of the charter inductees to the Walbridge Society, which recognizes exemplary Red Cross volunteers. He'd also been a national director of the American Red Cross.

Mr. Carson, a former member of the Ottawa Hills Board of Education, was a trustee of YMCA Camp Storer. He was president of the Community Chest of Greater Toledo and the United Appeal, predecessors to United Way

In 1965, he was presented the Service to Mankind Award from the Sertoma Club of Toledo.

In 1974, he was given the Boys and Girls Clubs' Bronze Keystone Award for his service to the local and national organizations.

He was president of the Toledo Hospital board of trustees and a director of the Toledo Edison Co. for 19 years, until June, 1986.

Through the years, he also was a director of the Plastic Technologies Inc.; Lamson Bros. Co.; Kiemle-Hankins Co.; Hall-Toledo Inc.; First National Bank of Toledo; National Family Opinion; Bostwick-Braun Co., and Gregory Industries Inc., of Lorain, Ohio.

He was 1974 president of what is now the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce. His daughter, Betsy Brady, was head of the chamber in 2001.

When Mr. Carson was in charge of Toledo Trust, he'd walk several times a week from the bank building on Summit Street, down Madison to 14th Street for lunch at the Toledo Club - "at a very rapid pace [with] great posture, often swinging his arms, his hat in his hand," his daughter Mary Fedderke said.

He still was physically active and liked walks in Wildwood Preserve Metropark and doing yard work, she said.

His son Russ said: "Dad was a guy who woke up with a smile on his face, and bad things were what you worked your way through, and good things were what you expected to find at the other end."

Mr. Carson and the former Alice Williams married in October, 1939. She died Dec. 9, 2003.

Surviving are his sons, Russell and Sam, Jr.; daughters, Betsy Brady, Mary Fedderke, and Kathy Richards; sister, Shirley Kendall; brother, Charles; nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

There will be no visitation. A memorial celebration will be at 4 p.m. Sept. 11 in the Manor House garden at Wildwood Preserve Metropark. Arrangements are by the Walker Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Area Metroparks, Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo, or the Toledo Zoo.



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