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Published: Monday, 11/30/2009

Archbold banker was committed to his community

ARCHBOLD, Ohio - Kenneth E. Stamm, retired chief executive officer of Farmers & Merchants State Bank based in Archbold and operator of the A.J. Stamm Insurance Agency, died Friday in Defiance Inpatient Hospice Center.

He was 89 and his family said they did not know the exact cause of his death.

Mr. Stamm started his career in 1938 as a janitor at the Farmers & Merchants State Bank. Though he never went to college, Mr. Stamm worked his way to the top in his 57-year career. He became head of the bank in the 1960s, his son Brad said.

As head of the bank, Mr. Stamm was known to look at more than credit scores when considering loans, his son said.

"I think many people can attest to my father's willingness to loan money, and to give second, third, and fourth chances," his son said.

His son added that Mr. Stamm considered "if he thought the person had character and integrity, if he knew the family and knew their work ethic. Today, it's all about the numbers and not about who you are."

Mr. Stamm lead the bank's ambitious expansion beyond Archbold during his tenure, opening the first new branch in Wauseon in 1973.

Before he retired in 1995, Farmers & Merchants stretched out of Fulton County into Williams and Henry counties.

The bank continued to grow after his retirement, and today extends into Defiance, Lucas, and Wood counties and northern Indiana.

Mr. Stamm and his wife, Erma, also owned the insurance agency his father had founded, A.J. Stamm Insurance Agency in Archbold. She ran the operation by day, and Mr. Stamm helped behind the scenes, his son said.

"He loved his work," his son said. "He went non-stop, and still had plenty of time for his family."

Mr. Stamm was working as a teller at the bank when he met the customer who would become his wife. The couple married in 1943, and recently celebrated 66 years together. They raised three children in Archbold.

Mr. Stamm also served nearly three years during World War II as a U.S. Army sergeant on the SS Hawaiian shipper, which delivered troops and provisions in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.

Mr. Stamm's career was based on "his commitment to the community, and his desire to see the local economy grow and his deep interest in helping people to start businesses," his son said.

Mr. Stamm was active in the Archbold Evangelical Church, and previously volunteered as a member of the church council and as church treasurer.

His Christian faith inspired him to contribute financially to the Cherry Street Mission, Christian church camps for youth, religious mission trips to other countries, and higher education, his son said.

As he retired from the bank, Mr. Stamm endowed a scholarship for business students at Nyack College in New York, a Christian college and seminary where Brad Stamm instructed business and economics.

He also served as president of the board for the Archbold Community Library, and helped raise funds to build the library in 1995.

He was also part of the Archbold Parks and Recreation Board in the 1970s, and helped build the community's first swimming pool.

Mr. Stamm is survived by his wife, Erma; daughter, Michele Jelen; sons, Brad and Alan; and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. today at Archbold Evangelical Church.

The family suggests tributes to the Cherry Street Mission or Miracle Camp, in Lawton, Mich.

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