News Column

Rea made lasting mark on financial, arts communities

July 8, 2014

By Kevin Parrish, The Record, Stockton, Calif.



July 08--STOCKTON -- David K. Rea, who built Stockton Savings and Loan into a $1.3 billion financial institution, died July 4 at his Stockton home surrounded by his wife, Elizabeth, and three children. Rea was 95 and, according to a friend, was "mentally sharp until the end."

The retired banking executive also was a well-known patron and supporter of the arts, and he was named Stocktonian of the Year in 2008.

"David was a man who was unafraid of defying conventional wisdom, whether it was taking a small, locally based financial institution public or hiring a female executive in an otherwise male-dominated world," said friend Jane Butterfield, who retired last year as president and chief executive officer of Community Bank of San Joaquin.

In 1981, Rea converted then-Stockton Savings from a local "mutual association" into a publicly traded company. The results were astonishing.

The small savings-and-loan association went from a single office with $4 million and five employees to a 23-branch, 360-employee financial institution with $1.3 billion in assets.

"It's the best thing we ever did," Rea said later.

He retired in 1997 as chairman of the board at 78. Rea was instrumental in Butterfield's achieving her first executive position in banking. "I got my chance through him. He hired me as controller in 1984," she said.

Rea was respected within the San Joaquin County banking community.

"Dave was an icon in the financial community and the city of Stockton," said Douglass M. Eberhardt, chairman of the board for the Bank of Stockton. "He was a great competitor and a great friend. He was a wonderful person, very gracious and committed to the community, a first-class individual."

Butterfield described Rea as decisive, forward thinking and generous.

After graduating from Stockton High School, Rea attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he obtained a business degree in 1940. He obtained a pilot's license and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps before the outbreak of World War II.

During the war, he flew fighter planes and bombers. Rea was stationed in the Panama Canal zone and later was an instructor at Davis-Monthon Field in Tucson, Ariz.

After the war, he returned to Stockton and married June Kindig. They later divorced.

In 1955, Rea became the manager of Stockton Land Loan and Building Association, which dates to 1887 and later became Stockton Savings and Loan and, ultimately, California Financial Holding Co.

It was sold to Texas-based Temple-Inland, which spun off its banking unit in 2007.

In 1959, he married Elizabeth Milhaupt.

Rea played the piano for local bands during high school, and that passion led him to his interest in the arts.

During the 1970s, Rea helped retired public-relations executive Marian Jacobs establish the Stockton Arts Commission. Stockton Savings was its first major donor. In 1995, he received that organization's STAR, given annually to residents who have encouraged the local arts.

"He was wonderful and kind -- a good man," Jacobs said. "He received the STAR award for his lasting contribution to the arts in Stockton."

Rea stopped flying after the war but took it up again 25 years later. His wife, Elizabeth, also became a pilot, and together they owned a Cessna 182 Skylane that they nicknamed "Sweety."

Community involvement was a large part of his life.

Rea was appointed to the Stockton Unified School District Board of Trustees in 1947 at age 28, the youngest person to serve in that position until then. He also served as president of the Pacific Athletic Foundation, Better Business Bureau of San Joaquin County, Greater Stockton United Way Crusade, Yosemite Club and the Stockton Golf and Country Club.

He was on the boards of the Stockton Symphony, University of California Alumni Association, Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce and Goodwill Industries.

Rea also was involved in the Dameron Hospital Foundation and The Haggin Museum. He was a member of the vestry at St. Anne's Episcopal Church.

He and Elizabeth Rea were among the founding donors of the Brubeck Institute at University of the Pacific.

Rea is survived by his wife and three children, Norby Gasho of McLean, Va.; David Rea Jr. of Edmonds, Wash.; and Mike Milhaupt of North Potomac, Md.

A memorial service is planned, but details have not been announced.

Rea was frequently a step ahead of others as the banking industry evolved during the second half of the 20th century. "I never forgot the opportunity he gave me," Butterfield said. "And taking Stockton Savings public brought quite a level of sophistication. He leaves quite a legacy from that perspective. "

Rea was cutting edge before that term was created.

When he was first named manager of the old Stockton Land Loan and Building Association, his first order of business was "to have the inkwells removed from the counter and have them replaced with ballpoint pens."

Contact reporter Kevin Parrish at (209) 546-8264 or kparrish@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @klprecord.

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(c)2014 The Record (Stockton, Calif.)

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Source: Record (Stockton, CA)


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