Bank manager retires after nearly 50 years in business

Umpqua Bank Manager Sally Pelham was in her element Friday, greeting longtime customers and enjoying a parade of bouquets, balloons and gags on her final day at the bank.

After more than 48 years in the business, Pelham is retiring.

“I like dealing with the public. I’m a people person,” she said. She said she’s enjoyed the atmosphere at Umpqua, where employees are not specialized and anybody can help just about any customer.

“It’s kind of hard to believe that 48 years have gone by,” she said. “You talk about retirement and suddenly it’s here.”

Pelham, 67, has been with Umpqua (and its predecessor) for 18 years, though her banking career started in 1961 in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“I graduated from high school on Wednesday and went to work Monday at the bank,” she said.

She started out in the bookkeeping department.

“Those were the good old days when everything was done by hand,” she said. “Tickets, balance sheets.”

In the late 1960s Pelham moved to Alhambra, Calif., near Los Angeles, where she stayed for 26 years before moving to Sweet Home in 1991. She and her husband Don have four boys and a daughter, Dawnetta Stewart, who lives in Sweet Home with her husband Jared and two boys.

Upon arriving in Sweet Home, Pelham began working for Linn-Benton Bank, which was later purchased by Umpqua. When Umpqua opened a branch in Sweet Home, Pelham, who had worked in every department possible by that point, was chosen as manager.

“I had all the qualifications,” she said.

She’s enjoyed banking because she enjoys people, Pelham said.

“I like variety, challenges, learning new things,” she said. “The people you work with here become more like family, even the ones in the background. You get to know them just like family.”

In addition to her banking activities, she’s also a member of the Rotary Club and serves on the board of the Chamber of Commerce €“ activities she plans to continue. She said she also plans to fill in where needed at the bank. Plus, her grandsons Hayden, 6, and Micah, 9, require her attention at their ball games and other activities.

“They keep me busy,” Pelham said.

She also plans to keep adding to her collection of Elvis memorabilia, which included a T-shirt she was wearing Friday, while Elvis music played in the background. She’s been a fan since the beginning.

“I started when Elvis started, years ago,” she said of her collection. “It just exploded. Where I worked, customers would get into it. I never dreamed it would get as big as it is.”

She said customers gave her a number of Elvis memorabilia for her collection on Friday.

Her retirement celebration was capped off with an Elvis-themed party on Friday night at the VFW Hall.

“I’m retiring on his birthday,” Pelham said Friday. “He would have been 75 today. Isn’t that ironic?”