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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Community mourns banker, leader
Sunday traffic accident claims Larry A. Heaton
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Courtesy Photo: Larry Heaton, president and CEO of Franklin Community Bank, was killed Sunday morning in a traffic accident in Patrick County.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

Franklin County mourns as an investigation is continuing into the traffic accident on Sunday that claimed the life of local banker and community leader Larry A. Heaton.

Heaton, 55, was traveling south on Route 8 in Patrick County when his truck ran off the right side of the road about 11:15 a.m. and struck a tree, according to the Virginia State Police. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

A Henry County native and Collinsville resident, Heaton was founding president and CEO of Franklin Community Bank, which opened for business in 2002. The bank recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Under Heaton's leadership, the bank expanded from its main office in Rocky Mount to branches in Westlake and Southlake.

Prior to founding Franklin Community Bank, Heaton was senior vice president and regional retail banking manager with BB&T; president, CEO and director of the Bank of Ferrum; and he served in various positions with Piedmont Trust Bank.

Heaton was also very active in the community. He had served as a director of the Franklin County YMCA and the Blue Ridge Foundation, and he had been a board member of Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, Virginia Bankers Association and the Virginia Association of Community Banks.

Heaton was also a member and past-president of the Rocky Mount Rotary Club.

A statement from the bank said,"Larry's contributions to the communities where he lived, worked and served will be deeply missed."

"Larry was a true friend and one of the most ethical, community-oriented people you will meet in your life," said Danny Perdue, a Franklin County businessman who is on the bank's board of directors. "He was a terrific guy. It's a big loss for the community."

Mark Newbill, president of the Rocky Mount Rotary Club, said Heaton has always been a valuable member of the club, where he had been a member for more than 15 years and had been named a Paul Harris Fellow for his community work.

Newbill described Heaton as a "super nice guy" who was active in all aspects of the Rotary club.

Heaton, who was 6 feet, 7 inches tall, was a star basketball player at Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) in North Carolina.

He was also an avid outdoorsman, runner, hiker and canoeist.

Heaton participated in the 24-hour run at Waid Park last month, running 55 miles during the event, and participated in the Tough Mudder at Wintergreen last year, a 10-mile obstacle course.

According to friends, Heaton had been hiking in the Rock Castle Gorge area of Patrick County on Sunday morning and was on his way home from that hike when the accident occurred.

Long-time friend Mark Hudzik, chief development officer for Member One Federal Credit Union, said he met Heaton 20 years ago.

"Immediately, he became one of my fiercest competitors, but most importantly, one of my closest mentors and friends," Hudzik said. "My first year on the (Franklin County) chamber board, I nominated Larry for the Marshal Flora Award. It was a no-brainer because, hands down, no one could match his passion for the community. Not surprisingly, Larry won that year and in his usual way, he graciously walked to the stage, gave us all a huge smile and challenged us all to do more for our community. That's the Larry we know and will remember."

Hudzik said Heaton "always cared about doing the right thing and truly lived the Rotary mission of 'Service Above Self'."

"Whether Larry was helping to raise money for the United Way, working with the Rotary club to build playgrounds for children, organizing free admission to the Rotary Independence Day Festival for the families of Franklin County, or making sure that we all recognize those who gave their lives for our freedom and protection, to Larry, the community always came first," Hudzik said.

"Larry lived his life by maintaining the highest possible standards of ethics and morals," he added. "We never questioned his rationale as it came from a heart filled with passion. Words cannot explain how much we will miss Larry. His absence will leave a large void in our community."

"A friend like Larry does not come along often," Hudzik added. "He was a teacher to us all, a father, and a devoted husband."

Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital President and CEO Bill Jacobsen said Heaton was "the consummate businessman and professional."

"I will miss Larry so much," he said. "I still can't fathom that I won't see him this week at Rotary ... He led his organization successfully through some really challenging times, and when you had any business dealings at Franklin Community Bank, you saw Larry's positive, capable fingerprint on every aspect of its operation."

Jacobsen said that Heaton, who was a member of the board of trustees at the hospital, quickly grasped all aspects and complexities of health care "because he was not only bright, but had an insatiable curiosity with anything new."

"He asked great questions and expected a complete, detailed, well-formed answer, the mark of a solid business mind," he added. "The many professional boards on which he served have a huge void like ours here at CFMH."

But Jacobsen said it was the personal relationships that Heaton developed that meant so much to him.

"Relationships meant everything to Larry," he said. "I loved how he always had Rotary breakfast with the elder statesmen of our Rotary club. They wouldn't let just anyone join their table, and this was a testimony of who Larry was. All business and all caring wrapped into one big 6 foot, 7 inch package."

Jacobsen said Heaton also had a great sense of humor.

"I remember posing for a picture with Larry when we were recognized for something together, and I stood on a chair so I could be at his level," he said. "I really need a high chair now, and I love that the Lord is smiling as he welcomes Larry into a mansion with really high ceilings!"

"Larry's professional accolades are numerous," Jacobsen added, "but what I remember is his infectious smile, the twinkle in his eye when you talked about his tailgating at the Pigg River Ramble or running in the Chug for the Jug (his team always beat mine!)."

"He was all about community, family, and helping others, whether it was getting sponsors for our Fourth of July Festival, serving pancakes at Applebee's to raise money for a good cause, or talking about his sweet (wife) Betty or how proud he was of his (two) boys," Jacobsen said. "Franklin County has a huge hole in its heart."

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Collins Funeral Home in Collinsville. Those arrangements had not been finalized at press time.

At a joint meeting of the bank's board of directors Monday, Brenda H. Smith was named acting president and CEO, according to a statement from the bank. Smith has served as chief financial officer of the company for 13 years.

In addition, Joel R. Shepherd was elected as chairman of the board of FCB. Shepherd is a founding director of the bank and serves as chairman of the board of MainStreet BankShares Inc., in Martinsville, where FCB is based.

A search committee has been formed to seek candidates for a permanent president and CEO.

"While the boards of directors are saddened by the loss of a valued friend and colleague, we are committed to our shareholders, employees and the communities we serve for the continued growth and soundness of the company," the bank stated.

Franklin Community Bank will close Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to allow employees to attend the funeral.

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