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Former bank president Jackson Lehman dies at 82


Jack Lehman, a Berne native and former president of Fort Wayne National Bank who helped found the English, Bonter, Mitchell charity foundation and was involved in a lengthy list of charitable organizations, died Saturday. He was 82.

Fran Foster, an assistant, said Lehman had been sick for the last month. His daughter, Jan Funk, said her father was diagnosed some time ago with heart disease and died of heart failure.

Friends remember Lehman as a giving man, a trusted adviser and a community leader.

"No question about it, he will be greatly missed in the community," said Jim Johnston, who followed Lehman as president of the bank, which became National City Bank and is now PNC Bank.

Lehman shared office space on the 24th floor of PNC Bank downtown with Johnston and Ian Rolland, former Lincoln National Corp. president and CEO. All retired, the three also shared an assistant, Foster.

"The joke was they didn't wear ties anymore and they went to lunch whenever they wanted," said Michael Eikenberry, who succeeded Johnston at the bank.

Born in 1931, Jackson R. Lehman was a Korean War Army veteran who received degrees from Bluffton University in Ohio and Indiana University.

Starting with FWNB in 1956 as a trainee, according to his obituary, Lehman became an assistant trust officer in 1959. He worked through several other positions to become executive vice president by 1974 and then president and chief administrative officer in 1985. He retired in 1997.

Eikenberry said Lehman, whom he had known for 47 years, was the only person to start in the bank's trust department and rise to become president.

"Jack was a very talented individual," Eikenberry said.

His talents went beyond banking to include the Embassy Theatre preservation and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, for which he served as president of the board. Lehman was chairman of the Memorial Coliseum trustees when the exposition hall and Memorial Stadium were built and the Coliseum roof was raised.

Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown said he worked with Lehman for more than 25 years.

Brown started as assistant manager of the Coliseum in 1988 when Lehman was president of the board of trustees. It was a hectic time, Brown recalled. The exposition hall was under construction and it was budget week, but not much had been done on budgets, Brown said.

Lehman took Brown aside, put an arm around his shoulder and said, "You know, I don't mind losing money, but I need to know if I'm losing money."

Brown said the TinCaps, successors to the Wizards, owe much of their success to Lehman, Jerry Fox and Jerry Dehner, who were instrumental in bringing a minor league baseball team to Fort Wayne. Lehman was the point man when they built the ball field, Brown added.

"He had a dry sense of humor and was very intelligent, a big picture kind of guy," Brown said. "A gentleman, a sharp mind. I learned a lot from him."

Lehman also was co-chair of the fundraising committee for the Allen County Courthouse renovation and the Courthouse Green. Most recently, he and Rolland were among those opposed to moving the Gen. Anthony Wayne statue in Freimann Square to Courthouse Green.

Eikenberry called the English, Bonter, Mitchell Foundation Lehman's brainchild. It was established in 1972 as a tribute to Dr. Calvin English, the first medical director of Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. The foundation contributes more than $5 million a year to charitable organizations. Those groups range from economic development to fine arts, Eikenberry said.

"His area of serving the community was as broad-based as the boards he served on," Eikenberry said.

For Fran Foster, the assistant, Lehman was someone she could go to for advice, both personal and professional.

"I can tell you right off the bat he was a father figure," Foster said. "I know he was respected by the community."

Advice is what people sought from him, but Lehman was better sitting and listening, said his daughter, Jan Funk. He also talked about being part of a team that worked for a purpose and raising the spirits of people through beautification projects such as the Embassy and courthouse, she added.

"That's part of why he did what he did," Funk said. "He was also an amazing father, husband, grandfather and great-grandfather."

Brown, of the Coliseum, said he is glad that three weeks ago he and current board president Mac Parker invited several longtime board alumni back and showed them the future plans for the Coliseum.

"I feel good he got to be part of that and know how much his leadership has meant to us," Brown said.

Journal Gazette staff writer Vivian Sade contributed to this story.