R. Kent Wilson, 90, longtime head of Forest Hill State Bank in Harford

March 16, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

R. Kent Wilson, a retired Harford County banker whose career spanned 35 years, died of heart failure Wednesday at Hart Heritage, an assisted-living facility in Street. The longtime Forest Hill resident was 90.

Born in Baltimore, he was raised in Forest Hill, where his family had lived since the 1700s. After graduating from Bel Air High School in 1931, he attended Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, and later worked as a deputy clerk for the Harford County Circuit Court for nine years.

His father, Charles H. Wilson, was a founder of the Forest Hill State Bank in 1914.

In 1941, Mr. Wilson joined the bank as assistant cashier, and also served as assistant to Harry Z. Heaps, the bank's president.

Mr. Wilson was later promoted to executive vice president and finally president of the bank. He retired in 1976.

At the time he joined the bank, it had assets of $2 million. That amount had grown to $22 million by the time of his retirement.

"When he joined the bank, he increased its staff by 50 percent as it went from two to three employees. It really was a small country bank, and as the area prospered, it prospered," said his son, Lawrence H. Wilson of Forest Hill.

Originally established in an old Grange Hall, the bank later moved during the 1920s to its present location at Route 24 and Old Jarrettsville Road. The bank, which retained its name, is now owned by Mercantile Bank.

Mr. Wilson was on a first-name basis with most of the bank's customers.

"Farmers would come in and shove their milk money under the window and say, `Put this in my account,' and walk out," said his son. "One day, a man walked in, pushed $3,000 through the window and walked out. He didn't know the man and had to get someone to race out into the parking lot and get his name before he drove away in his pickup truck."

In those early years of his career, Mr. Wilson was responsible for making many agriculture, small-business and private loans.

"He was very instrumental in the operation of the bank and was a strong presence in the community," said Russell R. Cullum, who has been executive vice president of the bank since 1976. "He laid the foundation for what the bank has become today. It now has assets of $336 million, and has grown from three branches to seven.

"He was very easygoing and friendly. He always had big smiles for everyone," Mr. Cullum said. "He was just a very congenial gentleman, and that's the atmosphere he maintained at the bank."

Mr. Wilson had also been a director and president of the Forest Hill Permanent Building Association.

A World War II veteran, he served in the Army Medical Corps in San Antonio and was discharged as a corporal in 1945.

He was a member of American Legion Post 39, the Moose and the Forest Hill Community Association.

Mr. Wilson, a charter member of the Maryland Golf and Country Club, was an avid golfer.

"And he lived just a nine iron from the bank," his son said.

Mr. Wilson enjoyed flower gardening with his wife of 65 years, the former Louise Mahan, who died last year. The couple raised the flowers that graced the altar of St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Hickory, where both were communicants.

Mr. Wilson also enjoyed hunting and fishing.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Ignatius, 533 E. Jarrettsville Road.

In addition to his son, Mr. Wilson is survived by a brother, Charles A. Wilson of Bel Air; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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