Litke counts 50 years as Anoka bank teller

If you bank at US Bank in Anoka, you know Mary Litke. And if you banked at 1st Bank before that, you knew Mary. And if you banked at the Northern Bank before that or the State Bank of Anoka before that, you knew Mary.

For the past 50 years, the petite curly-haired lady has greeted you with a friendly smile from behind the teller window in those Anoka banks. She’s made your deposits, checked your balance, answered your questions and taken care of all your banking needs.

Unwrapping a jeweled box, Mary Litke finds a key charm hanging from a necklace, given to her by US Bank district manager Michael Ferraro and his wife in commemoration of Litke’s 50 years working as teller in the Anoka bank. “It’s the key to the city because you have the key to our hearts,” Ferraro said. Photo by Sue Austreng

Unwrapping a jeweled box, Mary Litke finds a key charm hanging from a necklace, given to her by US Bank district manager Michael Ferraro and his wife in commemoration of Litke’s 50 years working as teller in the Anoka bank. “It’s the key to the city because you have the key to our hearts,” Ferraro said. Photo by Sue Austreng

And last week, in honor of Mary’s golden anniversary of service as an Anoka bank teller, Mayor Phil Rice declared Nov. 6, 2013 Mary Litke Day in the City of Anoka.

“I’m just so happy to work here. I love it here. Customers have become friends and I’ve never had a day where I didn’t want to come to work. I just can’t believe this … I’m just so happy,” Mary said, dabbing tears from her hazel eyes and smiling at the crowd gathered to honor her as Anoka City Councilmember Jeff Weaver read the proclamation.

Co-workers had secretly invited dozens of customers, bank executives, family and friends and adorned the bank lobby with purple bouquets of balloons and flowers, Mary’s favorite color.

Regional US Bank manager Christine Hobrough described Mary as an ideal model for new tellers to follow and said, “Mary is so important to so many – they make her part of their errand list.”

And Anoka US Bank branch manager Alex Segovia has witnessed that many times.

“They’ll be lined up five, 10 people deep, waiting to see Mary. They don’t want another teller. They want Mary,” Segovia said.

“We tell our young ones they can be like our Mary who’s been with us 50 years and everyone loves her,” Hobrough said, wrapping her arms around Mary and telling her “It’s such a pleasure to have you on our team.

Truth be told, Mary started her banking career more than 50 years ago.

Back in 1960 when Mary was in her senior year at Anoka High School, she did such good work in her stenography class, the teacher recommended that she apply for a job at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

And so, with gloved hands neatly folded in her lap and curly hair peeking out from under the hat perfectly positioned on her head, 18-year old Mary Kraus  interviewed for the job.

She impressed the folks at the Federal Reserve so much they wanted her to start as soon as she finished high school.

“So I graduated on Friday and started work on Monday,” Mary said, smiling at the memory of her earliest banking days.

Mary worked at the Federal Reserve – bookkeeping, filing checks, posting checks on account ledgers, even doing a little work on the switchboard – for a couple of years before marrying Gene Litke and starting a family.

It wasn’t long, though, before Mary felt the pull to return to work.

And sure enough, she found work when Julian Schmidt (Anoka City Councilmember Steve Schmidt’s father) gave Mary her first bank job in Anoka, hiring her as teller for the State Bank of Anoka.

That bank later became the Northern Bank, then 1st Bank and now US Bank.

Now banking has certainly changed over the past half-century, and Mary’s learned a lifetime of lessons along the way.

Perhaps the most powerful lessons occurred during a bank robbery 10 years ago.

There were just two tellers in the bank that day – Mary and one other – when a masked man came in, jumped over the gate and demanded the other teller give him all the money.

“She gave it to him,” Mary said. “That’s what we’re trained to do. I pressed the alarm and then – I can’t believe I did this – I ran out after him to see which way he went, you know, so we could tell police.”

Well, the bank robber escaped and Mary learned some important lessons that day.

“But, still, I’ve loved every day I’ve worked at the bank,” the golden bank teller said.

And folks at the bank – customers, co-workers and executives alike – love Mary.

“This is just so amazing and so impressive. I’m just so lucky you work for me,” Segovia said to her.

Victoria Wagner, a young teller who’s worked with Mary for just one year so far, said Mary is like a mother to her.

“It’s definitely a blessing to work with her,” Wagner said. “It’s like having your mom at work. She listens, she helps you, she gives advice … It’s truly a blessing.”

And Mary said she considers working as a bank teller to be a blessing, too. In fact, after 50-plus years, she still has no plans to retire.

“What would I do? I love what I do, and the friends I’ve made. I’m not ready to retire, not yet,” she said.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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