It was a wonderful life: The George Bailey of Benson, Ralph Brown Sr., led building and loan -
Published Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 7:17 am
It was a wonderful life: The George Bailey of Benson, Ralph Brown Sr., led building and loan

Read Steve Jordon's 2008 profile of Ralph Brown Sr. and Metropolitan Savings & Loan.

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Ralph Brown Sr., who spent more than 60 years at one of the nation's few nonfederally insured building and loan associations, has died at age 88.

After serving as an instructor pilot during World War II and the Korean War, the Omaha native went to work for his father, LeRoy, at Metropolitan Savings & Loan in Benson, eventually becoming president. He worked until he contracted pneumonia in December and died at home on Tuesday, said his son, Ralph Jr.

The association, founded in 1922, spurned FDIC deposit insurance, instead relying on substantial reserves, in-person home appraisals, reviews by state banking officials, personal knowledge of borrowers' finances and regular notices to its depositors of its uninsured status.

His son, nicknamed Skip, worked alongside his father and will continue the business, which includes an insurance agency and his law practice, at 2739 N. 61st St. One of his three grandsons, Nathan, also works there.

Metropolitan has nearly $1 million in assets and 40 borrowers. Its $750,000 in passbook savings accounts are held by about 350 depositors, who own the mutual association.

When the housing crisis hit the nation five years ago, Brown lamented the lending policies that resulted in home foreclosures and sheriff's sales. “These are good neighborhoods, too. These people got loans for a lot more than they should have. ... It's a sad thing. All you're doing is throwing people out in the streets.”

Brown's favorite movie was “It's a Wonderful Life,” a 1946 classic about a small-town building and loan run by Jimmy Stewart's character, George Bailey. Brown could imitate actor Lionel Barrymore, who played the villainous banker Henry Potter who tries to ruin Bailey.

By the movie's end, the town rallies and saves the building and loan. Brown once said he must have seen the film 50 times.

Brown also is survived by his wife, Dolores, whom he married in 1952. Services are pending at John A. Gentleman Mortuary.

Contact the writer: Steve Jordon    |   402-444-1080    |  

Steve covers banking, insurance, the economy and other topics, including Berkshire Hathaway, Mutual of Omaha and other businesses.

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