After Frank’s retirement, he continued to serve as Tandem Federal’s treasurer of the board and went to the office three days a week until his health prevented it. He had the credit union on his mind until the day he died in 1989, of heart and kidney ailments, says Frank Jr.
Son Phil nominated Frank Sr. as a CU Hero because, “I wanted people to know that everyone can still make a difference if their heart is open to serving others. We need to have that same heart of service today. He was an example to us.
“We have to continue to realize that the American spirit of service and helping others still exists,” he continues, “especially through the credit union movement.”
What would his father think of credit unions today? There were big problems in the early ’40s just as there are today, says Phil.
A Heavyweight with Smarts
Frank Matous Sr., former CEO of Tandem Federal Credit Union, Warren, Mich., was a talented boxer. He was good enough to make it to the national Golden Gloves tournament in 1937, and he dreamed of fighting for the U.S. Olympic team. Unfortunately, a 104-degree fever prevented him from winning the tournament, and he never returned.
Originally a Nebraska farm boy, he had 11 siblings so he learned early to hold his own in the ring. As a youngster, he competed in boxing matches at county fairs. And when his family moved to Detroit, he competed in intramural matches as a heavyweight fighter.
“He had a great family,” says his son, Phil. Frank loved to hunt, fish, and camp, and continued those pursuits with his own boys. Phil remembers camping nearly every weekend, most summers, at Michigan state parks.
He also fixed things around the house, says Phil. “Plumbing, electrical…he just picked up those things.”
Frank Sr. could do just about anything he set his mind to, says Phil. “Dad only had a grade-school education—although he could have been a doctor if he’d gone on to school. He learned all the business practices on his own.”
“He’d probably tell us to roll with the punches and make good choices,” he says. “He’d probably react the same way all of us are reacting.” Increased regulation is one of the biggest challenges, says Phil, requiring credit unions to “document commonsense things” and putting an extra hurdle in the way of serving members.
But Frank Sr. was a big believer in cooperation—among credit unions, organizations, and people. “My father was very supportive of credit union organizations,” says Frank Jr. “He believed people had to hang together to accomplish their goals.”
Opportunities abound to continue the legacy of Frank Matous Sr. and other credit union pioneers, says Phil.
“There are still people today who are coming up with imaginative ways to do things properly, to secure people’s funds, and to deliver service innovatively. There are a lot of good minds in the credit union movement today.
“Every now and then you hear people saying, ‘Are we going to lose the credit union philosophy?’ I just don’t see it happening. People love to be able to serve, and we’re keeping that spirit in the credit union movement.”