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Lois Kaster: A love for working with numbers and helping people
MONROE - Lois Kaster spent more than four decades working at the same bank, moving through many different roles, titles and wearing several different hats. Along with moving up in her career, she made time to be involved and move forward within the community, found a niche in teaching and kept the importance of her heritage strong to boot.

Kaster was born in Jordan Center on a dairy farm. She had an older brother who helped on the farm, but Kaster said she wasn't really allowed to help much.

She attended Jordan Center School during her elementary years and said even getting there was a challenge as there was no school bus. Like so many, Kaster was the daughter of a Swiss immigrant and has stayed proud of that upbringing.

She is a 1946 graduate of Monroe High School. As a student, Kaster said she wasn't an athlete but was still very involved. She had fun as a child and was involved with 4-H and exhibited items at the fair. She loved to attend movies and dances at Turner Hall, where she eventually met her husband. Kaster and her husband, Ben, were married in 1954, and her husband worked for the highway department.

After graduation, Kaster said, she thought about going to a technical college but didn't end up following through. At that time, the bank was recruiting people to work for them, and she started at Commercial Savings Bank in 1947 in bookkeeping and eventually became a teller.

"I loved it," Kaster said. "It was fun. We were like a family."

Everything was done by hand. Kaster, a self-proclaimed numbers person, recalled the lack of tools being challenging but still fun - she remembers hand-writing ledger books and posting bank statements for all of the checking accounts manually.

Kaster recalls fondly when the calculator came into play. The bank had some that were non-tape - modern technology at the time - but employees still re-checked everything by hand, including interest on savings accounts.

One of the biggest jobs was being involved with the cheese factories. Kaster took the role of doing all of the computing for the checks the farmers received and took care of receipts from the cheese companies. It was all handwritten.

"I loved numbers," she laughed. "I still do. My checking account has to balance to the penny every month."

She moved from being a teller to eventually working in the human resources department and then later moved to the trust department and become an assistant trust officer. Kaster went to the banking operations department and became the cashier before working her way into the vice president's seat. She was eventually elected to the board of directors.

After wearing so many hats within the bank, Kaster said she never felt the desire to change careers.

"I felt like I was really being recognized, and I give lots of credit to my bank presidents," Kaster said. "I was a 'people' person and I was always able to fulfill my duties. There was always a challenge and a new opportunity."

Over the years, she attended several banking classes, including the School for Banking Administration in Madison where she took on a series of projects. She also taught banking courses for several years in Green County, something she also enjoyed.

The bank took on many names over Kaster's career - the Commercial Savings Bank, then the Marine Bank for a short time, Bank One and Wisconsin Community Bank.

Just as Kaster was getting ready to retire, operations were becoming computerized, and she was determined to learn the ropes.

"I decided I wasn't going to be left out," she said. "So I got a computer and learned how to operate it."

Kaster worked at the bank for a total of 43 years, retiring in 1990.

"I felt I was very successful," she said. "And I really, truly enjoyed it."

The bank planned several outings over the years and, after her retirement, Kaster was asked to take on the tour director position, where she would plan those outings and experiences for the bank family, a post she enjoyed for three years.

The group that Kaster called family still holds a "Christmas" party each year in the spring and about 50 people still attend, showing the closeness that was felt there.

She was a part of the National Association of Bank Women in the 1970s and 1980s at a time when women were becoming more evident. The group had a very active local chapter, she said.

Along with working at the bank full time for more than four decades, Kaster stayed involved in the community. She was in the Monroe Chamber of Commerce and served as president for a time. She said she stayed active because she wanted to see the town grow and prosper.

Kaster was baptized and confirmed at St. John's United Church of Christ, and she was the first woman to serve on the church council. She taught Sunday school there and also served on several committees and ladies groups. She's still proudly serving on her church board, and is pleased with the growth and change that St. John's has seen over the years.

The Kasters traveled together regularly, including trips to Switzerland, Germany and Austria. They were also very active in Cheese Days, serving as the King and Queen in 1988. Kaster also served as the parade marshall twice. She said with all of her community involvement, she has made several friends and people she considers family.

Kaster has also served on the New Glarus Home Board, Monroe Clinic Hospital board, Monroe Arts Center Foundation, Churchill Woods board, Monroe Country Club board and Rainbow Childcare board. She still serves on the Monroe Arts Center board and Monroe Police and Fire Commission board, and she volunteers at the National Historic Cheesemaking Center. She also serves on the Monroe Clinic Hospice fundraiser board.

"I have to be busy," Kaster said, noting that she learned while growing up she would get rewarded for giving back.

"That's my saving grace. I enjoy people and helping."