Rusty Page never met a person – or a microphone – he didn’t like.
It could be a Wall Street waiter or analyst, a crowded stage, or an empty radio booth: Page could turn any stranger into a friend, and at any time into a performance. , say his friends and family.
The disc jockey-turned-bank executive was best known in the business world for his work as head of investor relations at Bank of America’s predecessors, North Carolina National Bank and NationsBank, alongside the CEO of then Hugh McColl.
Page was also a born and raised Charlottean who loved Carolina barbecue, Carolina beach music, and seemed to know everyone in town.
Russell J. “Rusty” Page was born December 3, 1942 in Charlotte to Robert C. Page Jr. and Sara Mullis Page. He graduated from Myers Park High School and attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He served in the Army National Guard and Air National Guard for over eight years.
Page died Friday, September 24, from complications from chronic heart disease. He was 78 years old.
“In the cockpit of the plane”
Page has had a winding path to his role at NationsBank, including gigs as a radio DJ, sports director for a local TV station, and beach band drummer.
After his military service and broadcast days, he founded Russell Page & Associates, a marketing and advertising company, in 1968. This led to a position as an advertising and communications manager at PCA International, and a possible post at North Carolina National Bank, which later became NationsBank. in 1991.
He was not a banker by trade and did not even have a college degree. But what he lacked in formal training he made up for with his charm and ability to learn on the fly and, sometimes, to invent things as he went.
“It was a cast of characters (at the bank at the time),” said John Cleghorn, who was working in the corporate communications team at the time. “And he was probably the greatest character of all.”
Besides McColl, Page was the bank’s primary communicator with Wall Street, Cleghorn said, telling the story of the rapidly growing bank as the industry was just beginning to figure out what it would become.
“It was a very difficult time. The interstate bank was really just getting started… after that almost every year we doubled in size, ”he said. “Rusty was in the cockpit of the plane.”
McColl’s vision has always been to “build a business that matters,” Cleghorn said, and he needed people like Page to do it.
Page was fiercely loyal to his boss and the bank. He approached his role with “incredible flair” and enjoyed it with enthusiasm, Cleghorn said.
Each holiday season, he retreated to his radio roots, handing out cassettes filled with a series of his favorite hit songs from the previous year. Between songs, he recorded his own introductions and comments.
These tapes were “sort of coveted” in the bank, Cleghorn said. “They were hilarious. It was like he was back on the radio.
“He would give them to all those sophisticated New York stock analysts,” he said. “I’m sure they didn’t know what to do with this guy.”
Good to wing
Page has become a critical part of NCNB’s growth, working closely with McColl to connect with current and potential investors. The two often traveled together.
“We got to where we could pretty much say what the other was thinking,” McColl told The Observer.
Like any couple working long hours on the road, they sometimes get annoyed. On a trip, Page and McColl were traveling to Japan to raise capital for a new investment.
After a particularly long day, the couple stopped by a karaoke bar for a drink. As they were seated, Page began to sing along to the music and McColl, tired and suffering from a headache, asked him to be quiet.
Page didn’t speak to her for the rest of the night. The next morning, McColl got up early and found the McDonald’s in downtown Tokyo. He bought double cheeseburgers, apple pies, fries – “whatever you can think of” – and brought it back for breakfast, his own version of an olive branch.
“He forgave me for being rude to him the night before,” McColl said with a laugh.
Anderson Page marvels at how his father, with no formal training, ended up working so closely with Charlotte’s top business titan. They had to be an unusual pair – the white-collar executive and the former DJ – but Rusty found a way to keep up.
And when all else failed, Page was “really good at flying it,” McColl said.
He was a great baseball player and a great dancer, he added. If anyone had a good time in their life, it was Rusty.
“He lived his life wide open,” he said. “Rusty was a fun person: fun to be around, fun to get to know. He lived his life to the fullest. We will miss him.
“Something of a local celebrity”
After his job at the bank, Page worked for the Nasdaq as a senior managing director for five years, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He retired to the mountains near Linville in his early sixties, but returned to Charlotte in 2011. “I ended up here. I want to be with friends, ”he told the Charlotte Business Journal of the move.
At 73, he returned to the bank with a job at Paragon Bank, the CBJ reported.
Always keen to employ his radio talents, he was a frequent MC at community events. He was also guest conductor of the Charlotte Symphony and wrote a two-act, one-man play titled “Winston” based on British politician Winston Churchill, in which he starred.
He’s become “something of a local celebrity,” as an Observer reporter put it in 2003. Eating with Rusty was having a constant flow of people around the table, the friend said. former Observer editor-in-chief Ken Gepfert.
Anderson Page recalls that even a stop at the gas station could result in a new friend and a 30-minute conversation at the pump as he and his siblings roll their eyes and wait in the backseat.
He maintained his optimistic attitude even through great personal tragedy. When his oldest son Christopher died in a car crash in 1993 when he was just 23, it changed Rusty forever, Anderson said.
From that moment on, his father was more direct, more thoughtful. He let go of the veil of fatherly stoicism and spoke candidly with his children about his emotions.
As he got older he struggled with his health and weight. He discussed it frankly in the pages of The Observer, where it featured frequently.
In an interview, he told a reporter he was working on a book. The headline: “Even a fat man can be too thin. “
In the same 2006 article, he talked about having a new life after stomach reduction surgery. He still had a host of other health problems: a bad knee, a ruptured disc, a few strokes of skin cancer. Page threw everything out.
“If I felt better I would be triplets,” he told the newspaper.
Whatever Page did, he threw himself into it wholeheartedly, his son said. He was dynamic. Open. Intrepid.
“He defined the term larger than life, more than anyone I have known,” Gepfert said. “It’s a big, big loss for Charlotte.”
Page’s family requested that instead of flowers, memorials could be made at The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina or at the Joe Martin ALS Foundation.
This story was originally published September 29, 2021 13:58.