Everybody jokes that Andover has too many banks, but only one person can truly relate to how financially focused the town has become over the years.
Meet Mary Leone, an 87-year-old manager of safe deposits at Bank of America in downtown Andover. She has worked with the bank for 65 years, through eight name changes, and has become so ingrained in the operation that one coworker said she seems a literal part of the institution.
Ask her what the bank was like decades ago, and you can see the walls rise and fall over the years as she points out where tellers used to sit, where the bank president conducted his business, even something as simple as where the stairs used to be.
Leone started working at the bank in 1944, during the second World War and right out of her teenage years. She left the business for a few years, but she returned in 1947.
Back before the advent of popular national banking chains, the Andover National Bank operated like “a clearing house. That’s where all the checks are processed.”
“It was very different,” she said. “Everything was done right in this branch.”
In 1956, the bank merged with the Merrimack National Bank of Haverhill to become the Andover and Merrimack National Bank. Then, after a couple more name changes, Leone found herself working for BayBank in 1976, Bank Boston in 1997, Fleet Bank in 2002 and Bank of America in 2005.
The bank hasn’t been the only thing to change over the years, however. As news became history with the passage of time, the businesses lining the Main Street corridor changed as well.
“There were coffee shops, little restaurants. We need a coffee shop, something like Ford’s,” she said, turning around and pointing out the bank’s front windows to where now-closed businesses used to be. “Ruth Hammond’s. That was a hat shop — beautiful hats. Clothing around the corner. Lorraine’s across the street, another dress shop.”
Just as the businesses have changed, so have the employees Leone has worked with.
She keeps their contact information in a metal “list finder” at her desk. She has a habit of calling people on the list on occasion, according to branch Assistant Manager Nancy Rubenstein, who has worked with Leone since 1991.
Some of the people Leone will call haven’t worked with her in 50 years, Rubenstein said.
“She’ll try to keep in touch, which is nice. And they will remember her. And when people come in, it’s, ‘Where’s Mary?’” Rubenstein said. “Mary is like our mother. She takes care of us.”
“I love them all,” Leone said. “They respect me, and they have given me life. They have given me my life.”
Around 15 years ago, the company tried moving her to another branch. Instead, Leone retired, moving herself to part-time employment and staying in the building.
Even at 87, Leone continues to work. She can’t sit still, she said, and she believes that’s the secret to long life.
“All my life, I’ve been like that,” she said. “I keep going, and I think the bank keeps me alive. Bank of America keeps me alive.”