A longtime Edwardsville business leader and philanthropist has passed away.
Robert Wetzel, formerly president of The Bank of Edwardsville, died Monday at age 75.
Born in Highland, Wetzel graduated from Monmouth College in 1960 and began working for The Bank of Edwardsville as an assistant cashier. He became vice president in 1973 and was named bank president in 1981.
Wetzel led the 145-year-old institution through a massive expansion: by the time he retired in 2004, The Bank of Edwardsville grew from two locations to 14, and from $80 million in assets to more than $1 billion.
Mayor Gary Niebur said Wetzel was a highly respected community leader, a "gentleman and an exceptional man." He said Wetzel's role as a business leader contributed to the growth and prosperity of Edwardsville.
"Because of his presence and through his efforts, Edwardsville is indeed a much better place," Niebur said. "Through his actions, he helped build this community and at the same time he helped individuals and businesses grow and prosper as well."
Tom Holloway, current bank president, said they are "deeply saddened" by Wetzel's death.
"As a director and past president at The Bank, Mr. Wetzel served with great honor and distinction," Holloway said. "But even more than his distinguished professional career, he was a great friend and colleague to many here and throughout the area communities."
As a business leader, Wetzel was a member of the Leadership Council of Southwestern Illinois, the Regional Commerce and Growth Association, the Rotary Club, SIU School of Business advisory board, Illinois Bankers Association, the University Park board of directors and the Greater St. Louis Economic Development Council, among many others.
"I, and the people of this community, will forever remember him and be grateful for the positive impact that he had on Edwardsville and the surrounding area," Niebur said.
But he also served with many charitable organizations, including the EGHM Foundation, Anderson Hospital's board of trustees, SIUE Foundation, Backstoppers, Lewis & Clark Community College Foundation, United Way, the Deaconess Foundation and an advisory council for local Boy Scouts.
"I cannot think of one charitable effort or worthwhile cause that Bob did not support," Niebur said. "Those many causes not only benefited from his generosity and support, but each of those efforts gained enormous credibility because of his involvement. When Bob Wetzel supported the effort or the cause, it was viewed by individuals, businesses and the community in general that the effort was also worthy of their support."
An Eagle Scout since 1953, Wetzel was honored with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 2002, which had been given to fewer than 1,500 people at that time since its creation in the 1960s. He has also received the Kimmel Service Award and recognitions from the Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Bankers Association and 100 Black Men of Alton.
Wetzel also served in the Illinois National Guard from 1960 to 1966, earning the rank of staff sergeant.
"While he will be sorely missed, Mr. Wetzel has left a legacy that will remain forever at The Bank of Edwardsville," Holloway said.
Wetzel is survived by his wife and two children. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.