A Longtime PartnershipBy Ruth Thone, '53
Published in Nebraska Magazine, Spring 2011
Probably the only such magnificent success story in the USA,” is how one old friend characterized the thriving career of Roy Dinsdale of Palmer, ’48, and his wife, Gloria, ’49. Roy calls Gloria his “sounding board.” She is clearly both his business and soul partner, in banking, cattle trading and life.
Roy, now 84, lost his official business partner, his brother Jack, on Thanksgiving Day 2010. They were partners for 63 years on a handshake, with never a cross word between them. Both brothers received the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration’s Lifetime Achievement Award in the spring of 2010. Model for Jack and Roy’s relationship was their father George and his brother, Tom, partners in cattle feeding, farms and The Palmer State Bank.
“It was like growing up with two sets of parents,” Roy remembered fondly.
Roy is the founder and still prime mover and motivator of the more than 100 Pinnacle Banks, chartered to do business in Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Iowa, Kansas, New Mexico and Missouri.
It is hard to tell which lifelong occupation – banking, farming, or cattle trading – is more fun for this one remaining brother of the four Dinsdale brothers raised in Palmer, population 472. Oldest brother George, ’36, deceased in 1988, was the premier travel agent at Travel and Transport, in Omaha. Youngest brother Howard, ’54, whose father could not understand anyone not wanting to be a farmer, knew by age six that he was not cut out for the farm and became an ophthalmologist in Lincoln. He died in 2008.
Roy and Gloria, also 84, now alternate between their original home in Palmer and an apartment in Omaha, a two-hour drive away. Their granddaughter, Paige, was queen of Ak-Sar-Ben in 2005, which required their presence at many an Ak-Sar-Ben event. Paige is the daughter of son Sid, CEO of Pinnacle Banks, and his wife, Dawn, and they live in Elkhorn. Sid’s brother Chris and his wife, Joy, live with their children in Sterling, Colo., where Chris runs Dinsdale Bros., Inc., comprised of various businesses that are not related to Pinnacle, and are mostly related to agriculture. (Sid and Chris are Dinsdale Bros., Inc., and Chris also serves on several Pinnacle Bank boards.) Daughter Jane and husband, Tom Rogers, investor, and their children, live in Omaha, where Janie serves on several Pinnacle Bank boards.
Gloria grew up in both McCook and Grand Island, where she lived in the Yancey Hotel, managed by her father, Colonel B. Stephens. She attended Ward Belmont, a women’s college in Nashville, Tenn, before she came to the University of Nebraska where she met Roy. They married after college, on Oct. 2, 1949 in McCook.
Even though he might be called emeritus, Roy begins each day by driving to the cattle yards before going to the elevator and opening a computer to all transactions at every bank from the day before. At the same time, he keeps in touch by telephone. He is still close enough to the businesses to be able to offer suggestions on various loans and transactions. A computer operations company for the Pinnacle Banks (PDS) employs 90 people in its Gretna office.
The Dinsdale family “got into grain elevators early,” a friend recalled, which provided financial support for other ventures. This business plan reflects the almost-vertical structure of the Dinsdale family operations. This means owning the businesses that are needed to support the central operations.
A typical day might begin with Sid leaving Omaha and picking up Roy in the company plane to fly to Cheyenne and Fort Collins, after which Sid flies on to western Colorado and New Mexico. Meanwhile, Roy goes by car to eastern Colorado, Ogallala, and then Lexington, from where he gets a ride home to Palmer.
Not every day involves this much travel but Roy has been visiting banks for so many years that such a trip seems natural. He attends about 15 bank board meetings a month. Gloria serves on the Nebraska Cultural Endowment advisory board and gave up her position on the State Arts Council to spend more time with Roy and their ten grandchildren.
A day in Palmer begins for Roy with a pre-7 a.m. visit to the feedlot, where 8,000 cattle are kept, to talk with the guys and check cattle bought the previous day. After returning home for breakfast, the day might include bank board meetings via computer and telephone, an afternoon drive to a bank, and home for supper. Roy bought his first load of cattle 61 years ago.
Roy’s judgment about the people he hires to run the banks and various other enterprises is as savvy as his cattle sense. Years ago, at the Neligh Bank, one of his first purchases, Dinsdale, with the help of his president John Glandt, set up an employee profit-sharing plan that exists to this day in all the Pinnacle Banks. This is where he especially depends on Gloria. “She’s my sounding board; she always listens,” he said.
Gloria likes to personify Roy as “liking the land. He just loves to watch the crops and growing things. That’s his happy season. As we go back and forth between Palmer and Omaha, he remarks all the time about what should be growing, how it did last year. He can’t wait to get back to farming.
“Our house in Palmer looks down the Loup River Valley,” Gloria said. “And our place in Omaha has a west view because most of our weather comes from the west,” and here Roy can connect with the land through the weather, too.
In their earlier years, Gloria helped corral the cattle by swishing tree limbs after them, and driving the tractor ahead of the truck to help put up silage. Gloria and Roy laugh at a photograph of Gloria taken on an early morning of spring thaw when she sank up to her ankles in the manure of the cattle pens.
After mulling over how to describe herself, Gloria settled on “loyal and pretty much of an optimist.” One of her best traits, according to Roy, “is the relationship she has with her family. She gets along great with all of them.” To which Gloria responded: “I think I am fairly easy to get along with. Maybe I should be more forthright.”
Roy’s idea of a perfect day is “when concluding business transactions, my family thinks everything has come out the way we thought it would; and I am on my way to pick up Gloria and we go out with friends for dinner.” Gloria characterized a “nothing kind of day” as the one she likes best: “Get up and have a cup of tea and go out for a long walk in sunny weather, come back and read a good book, maybe have some time with children and grandchildren and have Roy come home for dinner.
“I know it [a perfect day] “when I see it,” she concluded.
What Roy likes least about himself is “the aging process and the impairment that goes with that, keeping us from things we like to do and have been doing.” Yet he is grateful for as “many things as I can do at this age.” What he likes best about himself is “the relationship I’ve been able to live with my family.”
The Dinsdale’s generosity expands far beyond Palmer. One year Roy was worried about how the men and women in the service in Iraq and Afghanistan were able to buy Christmas presents for their families. He and his offspring decided to establish the “We Care Fund,” which developed into a program that has served 6,400 service people in the Nebraska National Guard stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each service person receives $400 for Christmas; Nebraska’s 900 recipients’ gifts this year totaled $360,000. Since its inception in 2003, there has been a short list of most generous donors who have contributed annually to this fund.
Roy also responded to a request to pay for dinner for 500 in Omaha in the spring of 2008, honoring World War II servicemen and women. All those veterans were flown to Washington, D.C., to honor their service. Brother Jack had a vision of a memorial park dedicated to veterans of the Palmer area. He designed, funded and closely supervised this project on Palmer’s main street.
All the Dinsdale boys except Roy served in the Armed Forces. Roy was ineligible because of childhood osteomyelitis, which, before penicillin, weakened bones.
Among other organizations supported by Roy and his family is the Methodist Epworth Village Home in York, where 40 to 80 young men have a safe, healthy childhood.
Another favorite activity of Roy and Gloria is Nebraska football. One of my favorite memories of this remarkable man came on a bright sunny fall day, when Nebraska was winning over some heralded team. Roy tucked his hands into his pants pockets, grinned for all he was worth, and, happily pronounced, “Ain’t it grand to be an American!” Such is a perfect testament to the life of this most outstanding family.