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Marshall M. Sloane, founder of Century Bank, dies at 92

Marshall Sloane.
Marshall Sloane.

Though Marshall M. Sloane’s name would become synonymous with banking, it was his father who first had the idea of trying to attract a financial institution to Somerville’s Magoun Square. Jacob Sloane purchased a building there, across the street from the family’s furniture business.

While in his 20s, Marshall Sloane opened a cooperative bank “in the very building my father had bought in hopes of better times,” he recalled in a 2010 interview with the East Boston Immigration Center.

“Eventually, my father’s dream was fulfilled, but with a twist, as I’m sure he never envisioned his own son as the banker,” he added. “Nor did I ever dream that I would become a banker. But I saw an opportunity and my inquisitiveness led me to explore the possibilities.”

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Mr. Sloane, who became an icon in the state’s banking industry after he founded Century Bank 50 years ago and built it into one of the region’s most successful community banks, was 92 when he died Saturday.

Still chairman of the bank he launched in a trailer in 1969, Mr. Sloane had been going into work until three weeks ago and most recently lived in the Brookline part of Chestnut Hill, after many years in Newton.

“Marshall Sloane was much more than the visionary architect of Century Bank. He was our Dad,” two of his children, Barry R. Sloane and Linda Sloane Kay, said in a statement posted on the Century Bank website.

Barry is president and CEO of the bank, Linda is an executive vice president.

“As we mourn his passing, we celebrate the close and loving relationship he had with his family,” they said. “He taught us the value of working hard, doing the right thing, and serving the community. He always wanted the bank he founded to live long beyond his generation — and he insisted we do it in a way he would be proud of.”

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Along with his work in banking, Mr. Sloane was frequently honored for his involvement with an array of organizations and institutions, from Jewish causes to the Boy Scouts to bridging gaps between Jews and Catholics.

“Marshall Sloane exemplified the best qualities of a person dedicated to his family, his friends, including the people of the Century Bank family, and his local community,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley said in an e-mail.

“Marshall’s legacy encompasses countless acts of charity and goodness, those well-known through the Sloane family’s generous philanthropy and those known only to the people he quietly helped in so many ways. We have all been blessed by Marshall’s dedication to the spirit of tikkun olam, the Hebrew call to repair the world through kindness and good works. Let us honor his memory by following his example.”

To many institutions, Mr. Sloane was also a financial savior who extended loans at key junctures to colleges and universities and even the Archdiocese of Boston.

Under Mr. Sloane’s guidance, Century Bank also built strong relationships in the business community, sticking with customers during difficult times. Century now has 28 branches in Massachusetts.

In addition, the bank kept close ties to municipal governments, holding deposits of more than half of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns, the Globe reported in 2014, when Mr. Sloane was still working daily in his fifth-floor Medford office.

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His duties included signing the $2 gift cards given to new customers who open accounts.

Mr. Sloane finished his autobiography a couple of years ago and called it “Character Counts.”

“I’ve tried to run my business the same way,” Mr. Sloane said in a 2017 Regis College video tribute when he received a Shining Example Award. Catholic Charities had previously honored Mr. Sloane and his wife, Barbara, in 2013.

“Be honorable, honest, do the right thing,” Mr. Sloane added. “And also, give back.”

The third of five children, Marshall M. Sloane was born in 1926 and grew up in Somerville, a son of Jacob Sloane and Rose Mary Jacobson. His father had emigrated from what is now Lithuania.

“My father’s big coup was marrying my mother, who was American-born and beautiful,” Mr. Sloane said in the 2010 interview.

“My mother was a great influence on my father,” he added. “She Americanized him and was a great business partner, friend, wife, and mother of his children.”

Mr. Sloane graduated from Somerville High School in 1944 and then served as a Navy Seabee in the 139th Construction Battalion at the end of World War II, stationed in California.

He returned home to attend Boston University, and left to work in his family’s business. He was 26 when his father died, and not long after Mr. Sloane launched a cooperative bank in the building his father had bought — an old bank that had gone under during the Great Depression.

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In 1969, Mr. Sloane founded Century Bank in a trailer in Somerville while the permanent offices were under construction. It was an immediate success, taking in more than $1 million in deposits the first day. The Globe reported in 1969 that the bank was profitable within four weeks.

From the outset, he stressed a personal approach.

“When we make a loan to a customer, that customer is introduced to the senior lender, the president, and many times to the chairman, as well as other senior officers within the bank who can service their financial needs,” Mr. Sloane said in a 2001 interview posted on The Wall Street Transcript website. “As a result, our customers really know our organization and the people within it.”

Before moving into banking, Mr. Sloane was helping lead a Boy Scouts camping trip in Millis with a friend in the early 1950s. He was long involved with the organization, which over the years honored him with regional, national, and international awards.

On this weekend, though, he and a friend wanted to go to a nightclub. They found a hand-crank pay phone and Mr. Sloane called the home of Barbara Joan Gluck, whom he had never met, to ask her out. Her mother, Esther, answered and handed the phone to Barbara, who moments later put her hand over the receiver and asked: “Shall I go? I don’t know him.”

According to family lore, Esther replied: “He sounds like a nice boy. You should go.”

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They married in 1954 and had celebrated their 65th anniversary just before Mr. Sloane became ill with complications from the flu.

“Their love together was incredible. You saw Marshall, you saw Barbara.” their daughter said.

Mr. Sloane and his wife had set up side-by-side lounge chairs in their home so they could stay beside each other, holding hands, as their health slipped with age.

“All he cared about was my mom and making sure she was so well taken care of,” Linda said. “It was a love that was so deep.”

In addition to his wife, Barbara, his son, Barry, and daughter, Linda, Mr. Sloane leaves another son, Jonathan; a sister, Elaine Blank of Montreal; and nine grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Temple Israel in Boston. Burial is at Sharon Memorial Park.

Mr. Sloane served on numerous boards and received many diverse honors from Israel and from Boston University, where he served as a trustee for many years, a role he valued.

His favorite place was his office at work, though.

Until a few weeks ago, “he was almost every day in the office, and when he did come in, he usually beat me in,” Barry said.

“I’m only happy when I’m here,” Mr. Sloane told the Globe a few years ago, just after turning 88. “It’s in my bloodstream.”


Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BryanMarquard.