From all over the nation, former employees, colleagues and friends have posted dozens of tributes on legacy.com to honor Peter J. Kavalauskas, the 62-year-old Northeast Credit Union president/CEO, who died Feb. 8 in a snowmobile accident in Washington, N.H., just two days after he announced his plans to retire.
“I will never forget my first day as a teller that I waited on Peter at the main office. He was very gracious and just smiled as he handed it to me when I asked him for his ID, since I had no idea at that time who he was,” wrote Doris Joaquin, who worked at NECU from 2003 to 2013. “He was a very down to earth guy and he will be greatly missed by all.”
“Peter was a good person and a respected leader and colleague,” wrote Denise Caristi, president/CEO of the $325 million Granite State Credit Union in Manchester, N.H. “Our hearts break with this sad news.”
Kavalauskas was a passionate supporter of Make A Wish Foundation of New Hampshire and served on its board.
His work for that organization was not forgotten.
“Because of your kindness to Make A Wish, my son/family had a Christmas that will never be forgotten,” wrote Jessica Oliver of Rochester, N.H. “Earth has lost a wonderful man & heaven has gained another angel.”
A funeral service for Kavalauskas was set Thursday in Dover.
With only 20 credit unions in the small New England state, credit union executives know each other.
So when the tragic news of the death of 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 led the $994 million NECU in Portsmouth, N.H. as its president/CEO for nearly two decades.
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 the 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 on the board for Octant Business Services LLC in Littleton, Mass.
The Portsmouth, N.H.-based credit union said Feb. 10 its board had named Executive Vice President/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 a statement from the credit union.
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. The accident remained under investigation.
Kavalauskas’ accidental death was the second involving a credit union leader in less than a month. On Jan. 10, across the country, veteran executive and consultant Larry Dodge, 65, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Los Angeles just after taking a new job as vice president of operations for the $24 million Printing Industries Credit Union in Commerce, Calif.