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May 16, 2014 4:33 PM by KATC

MidSouth Bank Founding Board Member Dr. Joe Hargroder Dies

The MidSouth Bank family is mourning the loss of the man long credited with getting the bank off the ground in 1985.

Dr. Joe Hargroder of Jennings, a founding board member who raised 25 percent of the capital to start MidSouth Bank and prided himself on having never missed a board meeting, lost his hard-fought battle with cancer on Thursday, May 15, 2014. He was 83.

"I just don't even know where to begin in trying to put into words the kind of loss each of us at the bank is feeling," MidSouth Bank President and CEO Rusty Cloutier said in announcing Hargroder's death. "Dr. Joe has been our rock for so long. We could never repay him for the faith he put in us and for his guidance and determination to make this bank what it is today. Without Dr. Joe there would have been no MidSouth Bank."

Hargroder's contributions to MidSouth Bank date back three decades, when he went to his patients, friends and colleagues in Jeff Davis Parish with a proposal to invest in a startup bank in Lafayette. Like they had done when he advised them on their health, they trusted his word and put their hard-earned money into MidSouth Bank. As usual, the good doctor did not disappoint them.

"Many of these initial backers have become very wealthy off of this single investment opportunity," Hargroder said for a profile of him that ran in MidSouth Bank's 2005 Annual Report.

A family physician for more than three decades, Hargroder left the medical profession in 1992. He served as Vice Chairman of MidSouth Bank's board of directors from 1990 to 2012, having relinquished the role in May 2012 due to his declining health. He remained a loyal board member until his death.

Throughout his career and into his retirement, Hargroder earned a reputation as one of Jeff Davis Parish's most respected and admired community leaders, according to Jennings Daily News Publisher Dona H. Smith, whose newspaper honored Hargroder as a "Local Legend" in May 2004. He also was one of his community's most prolific letter writers, penning informed opinion pieces that were caring, kind and compassionate, Smith said.

In recognition of Hargroder's lifetime of service to Jeff Davis Parish and the vital role he played in the founding of MidSouth Bank, the board of directors and management established the Dr. Joe Hargroder Scholarship in 2005. The $50,000 endowed scholarship fund was set up through the McNeese Foundation and is available to students from Jeff Davis Parish. The bank has made a commitment to increase this fund over the next five years.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that contributions be made to the established fund. Checks can be sent to the McNeese Foundation, P.O. Box 91989, Lake Charles, LA, 70609. Donations can also be made online at www.mcneesefoundation.org.

A celebration of Hargroder's life will be held in Jennings during the month of July.

"Dr. Joe was much more than a fellow director," Cloutier said. "He provided counseling and comfort to my wife and family on many occasions. For decades he took care of the sick in his community, but more than that he enhanced the spirit of life of everyone who ever knew him. And we will all miss him dearly."

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