With only 20 credit unions in the tiny New England state of New Hampshire, credit union executives know each other.
So when the tragic news of the death of the 62-year-old Northeast Credit Union President/CEO Peter J. Kavalauskas came over the weekend, the state’s credit union executives were shocked and saddened.
“It was shocking to hear the news, especially after Peter announced his retirement,” said Brian F. Hughes, president/CEO of the $193 million Holy Rosary Credit Union in Rochester, N.H., who said he had known Kavalauskas for 10 years. “I was really happy for him and his retirement plans. Boy, how things change quickly.”
Kavalauskas died in a snowmobile accident just two days after he announced his plans to retire in June. He led the $994 million NECU as its president/CEO for nearly two decades.
Hughes recalled Kavalauskas was a very big proponent of CU 4 Reality, a financial literacy program for middle school students, and also served on the board of directors for Make-A-Wish Foundation in New Hampshire.
Gerald L. Dumoulin, chairman of the New Hampshire Credit Union League and president/CEO of the $41 million Guardian Angel Credit Union in Berlin, N.H., said credit unions lost a good friend, and praised Kavalauskas for his longstanding leadership.
“For 35 years, Kavalauskas exemplified the spirit of credit union movement through his willingness to cooperate with his peers and serve credit union members,” Dumoulin said. “He will be greatly missed. On behalf of New Hampshire Credit Unions, we would like to extend our condolences to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children.”
Since 1982, Kavalauskas volunteered with NHCUL, serving in several positions as a member of the board of directors, executive committee and as past board chair.
In addition, Kavalauskas served as a director for the Vermont Credit Union League, as a director and president of the New England Credit Union Executive Society, and was a member of the supervisory committees for Eastern Corporate Federal Credit Union in Burlington, Mass., and Tri Corporate Federal Credit Union in Westbrook, Maine. He also served as the director of the board for Octant Business Services LLC in Littleton, Mass.
In a Monday release, the Portsmouth, N.H.-based credit union said its board had named Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Timothy J. Collia to the position of interim president/CEO.
“Peter left the credit union with strong leadership in place and a clear road map for the staff to follow. I am committed to carrying on the mission that the Board of Directors and Peter have laid the foundation for and continuing Peter’s legacy of providing exceptional value, convenience, and the highest possible level of service to our members each and every day," Collia said in the statement.
Phillip W. Sullivan, chairman of the credit union's board of directors added, “Peter was a visionary leader and was instrumental in the continued growth and success of Northeast Credit Union. He leaves a remarkable legacy of dedication to the credit union and its members. It was an honor and privilege to work with him. Our thoughts are with his wife Nancy and their family during this difficult time.”
Kavalauskas joined Northeast Credit Union (then known as Northeast Federal Credit Union) in 1978 as an assistant general manager, according to a statement released by NECU on Feb. 6 when Kavalauskas announced his retirement.
He was promoted to general manager in 1984 and took the helm as president/CEO in 1985.
Under his leadership, NECU expanded from three branches in southern New Hampshire to 15 branches throughout the state. Assets grew from $102 million in 1985 to over $994 million today. Kavalauskas also led the organization in membership growth from 39,000 members in 1985 to 99,616 members today.
New Hampshire Fish and Game officials said Kavalauskas of Dover died after a snowmobile he was driving hit trees on the shores of Millen Lake in Washington, N.H. at about 1 a.m. Saturday. Although the accident is still under investigation, authorities believe speed may have been a contributing factor, according to local media reports.
Funeral arrangements are expected to be announced Tuesday by the Wiggin-Purdy-McCooey-Dion Funeral Home in Dover, N.H.