John Beller of Cave City became president of the Bank of Cave City in October, but before sitting behind the president’s desk, he had worked in almost every part of the bank.
He grew up in Ash Flat on a farm with his family. After graduating from high school, Beller made his way to Arkadelphia to become a student at Ouachita Baptist University, where he graduated with a triple major.
“I majored in history, philosophy and political science,” Beller said.
While working on his undergraduate degree, he took a trip to England to study abroad for a semester with his university.
“I actually met my wife, who is from Fort Smith, while I was in England,” Beller said.
The two were married while they were still students at OBU.
“We [both] worked at Cracker Barrel,” Beller said.
Beller and his wife, Ashley, spent 4 1/2 years at OBU, then made their way to New Orleans, where Beller entered a graduate program at Tulane University to study late medieval and early modern European history.
Beller said he and his wife really enjoyed living in New Orleans until their experience there was abruptly cut short.
“Hurricane Katrina disrupted us and brought us back [to Cave City]. We lost all of our stuff,” he said.
Hurricane Katrina wasn’t the only thing that caused Beller’s family grief during the year 2005.
“That happened in late August that year, and my mother passed away in December,” he said. “It was sudden. She was 58 years old. [My wife and I] had an outlook that life is short and you need to live well, so we wanted to move back home, so to speak.”
Beller asked his father, Sam Beller, if he could have a job at the Bank of Cave City, where the elder Beller was president and CEO. In 2006, the younger Beller started working at the bank as a teller.
“I did that for a little over a year,” he said. “They also let me do some additional things.”
After working as a teller, Beller worked in the information technology department for the bank, in marketing and as a loan officer while his father served as president.
Before Beller took the president’s office at the bank, he said his father was working toward retiring.
“He was looking at retirement and working that way. [When I was named president], we were able to split his job up a little bit,” Beller said.
The Bank of Cave City was started in 1909, and Beller’s family has been involved in the endeavor since 1919.
“[Being named president] is an overwhelming feeling of good fortune,” Beller said. “I feel lucky, but there’s also something kind of humbling about it.”
Beller is the eighth president of the bank, and the past list of presidents includes not only his father, but his grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather and great-great-great-grandfather, who was the first president of the bank.
“It’s great to be mentioned in that list, but now it’s [my] turn, so to speak, and I have to do something with the bank. It’s my responsibility to care for it and manage it and nurture it in the way it has been done,” he said.
With a list of presidents mostly made up of people in his family, Beller said there is a bit of pressure that comes along with the job, but it balances out.
He said the job is comforting because of the people he works with each day.
“There is so much support and so much knowledge and so much institutional know-how [regarding the bank],” he said.
If Beller ever has a question about protocol at the bank, he always has someone to ask for advice.
“I’ve got as much help as I possibly need,” he said. “We’ve got good folks who work with us, and we’ve got good folks who do business with us.”
Beller not only is inspired by the people he works with daily; he said he’s got his parents to thank for setting an excellent example on how to live life.
“My mom was a passionate and compassionate person,” Beller said. “My dad was a lawyer for a long time, and he’s a really smart guy. His respect for other people and his ethical approach to life and how you treat others is remarkable.”
Beller said that although the pressure is there, his new job isn’t scary or daunting.
“We’ve got good relationships with the people who we do business with,” he said.
Like any new job, Beller has some goals in his new position.
“My specific goals are that we want to be who we’ve been — a strong, locally invested bank,” Beller said. “That is, in some ways, a challenge because of the economy. We change all the time because the world changes, and we want to continue to be a good strong bank.”
During his years with the bank, Beller said, he has discovered that people matter.
“The business has changed a lot in the last 10 years,” he said. “I hear stories about Eagle Street (Beller’s great-grandfather) all the time.”
Beller said he hears about his great-grandfather a lot while he’s working.
“I heard a man say, ‘I came in to talk to Eagle, and he loaned me $500 to buy my first car, and he told me to have my dad come back and take care of it later,’” Beller said. “Banking doesn’t work like that anymore, but you hear stories like that all the time.”
Beller said this gives him a sense of pride in his work.
“There are a lot of folks around here that still remember doing business with [my great-grandfather],” Beller said.
When Beller isn’t working, he spends time with his wife and three children on their farm.
In addition to continuing the family service tradition in banking, Beller also feels a call to help his fellow citizens in their personal and spiritual lives, so he is working to become a licensed local pastor within the United Methodist church.