Party tomorrow for West Seattle teller who “knows … everyone”

Story and photos by Mary Sheely
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Popular wisdom holds that it’s best not to combine monetary transactions with friendship. Diane Steele gives the lie to that one. Steele will spend her last day as a teller at the Junction Wells Fargo Bank tomorrow, retiring just a month shy of 27 years at that location.

She’s made so many friends of her customers during that time, one of them, Kayla Weiner, got in touch with us to make sure Steele received the tribute she deserved.

“She is an amazing person who knows the name of everyone,” Weiner told WSB. “She knows about them and their family. Last year she even made a donation for me when I did the 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk. She is an institution, as those who know her can attest. I for one will really miss her.”

A visit to Steele’s branch confirms those sentiments. A huge card and message book are filling up with well wishes from devoted customers and coworkers. On Friday, customers and locals are invited to come in during business hours to help Steele celebrate (and grab a slice of cake while it lasts).

Steele is standing in the lobby when customer Andrew Carl enters the bank.

“How’s the little one today?” she immediately inquires about Carl’s baby at home.

“I try to be what everyone wants a banker to be,” Steele says. “And it must have worked. I’ve had customers who came in with their parents as little kids, they grew up and came here, and their kids now come here. It’s like being part of the family.”

Steele has actually been working at this location even longer than Wells Fargo — 22 years ago, the location was still a branch of First Interstate Bank; she’s been working as a bank teller for almost 40 years. In that time, the industry has obviously changed quite a bit, and current public sentiment toward the banking industry is likely to be negative.

“I think all of them know that’s not what I am,” Steele says of her customers. “I know when their grandparents died. I know when their parents got married. I know when they got married, when they graduated from school, when they got their drivers license. I think that’s why they stay with me for so long.

“Nowadays, I think my main priority is the customer” as opposed to simply banking, she continues. “That’s what’s the difference. I don’t care if they have two cents of 30 million dollars.”

“She’s just great with people,” says teller Terri Varney, who’s worked with Steele for 15 years. “She sets a great example for all of us.”

Wells Fargo West Seattle Store Manager Thomas V. Than, who says he is “very excited for her, and also very sad to be losing such a huge part of our team,” tells one of many stories of Steele going far beyond her role as a teller.

“Last year, a customer locked his keys in his car,” Than recalls. “Rain was pouring down outside. She took him home to get his spare key. Those are the kinds of things that she does, never thinking about it, just loving what she’s doing and doing it well.”

Helping a customer retrieve a set of keys is a good story, but there’s actually a little more to it. Thanks to Steele’s help, the man who locked his keys in his car was able to make it to the hospital in time to say goodbye to his dying mother-in-law.

That kind of caring, says Varney, “especially in this day and age, sometimes gets kind of pushed to the side. She brings it all around.”

When Steele leaves Wells Fargo tomorrow, she’ll be taking with her something else that’s been a familiar sight to customers: a painting of a wolf that currently hangs behind the counter.

It’s Steele’s work, which she’s been pursuing along with the painting group Pastel Art, comprised mainly of artists who live north of Seattle, for the past ten years. Now that Steele’s retiring, she’s going to look into joining a painting group a little closer to home.

Steele also plans to spend time with her husband, himself a recent retiree, who’s “wanting to have me home.” In fact, her marriage sounds as happy and long-lasting as her career has been.

“We’ve been together 43 years,” Steele says. “I got some staying power.”

19 Replies to "Party tomorrow for West Seattle teller who "knows ... everyone""

  • cathyw January 14, 2010 (4:10 pm)

    What a shock to see Diane’s picture on your blog this afternoon. I went into that bank branch today for only the second time ever. Usually I use the drive thru and never go inside. There was Diane in the lobby being welcoming and friendly. Then she held the door open for me as I left the building. At the time, I was scratching my head wondering if Wells Fargo was now hiring “greeters” for their customers. Thanks for solving the mystery. I had no idea who she was. I’m glad I got a chance to meet her before her last day and sorry that I didn’t get to know her. That’s a wonderful story. (Clearly I didn’t take the time to read the huge card right in front of me. That would have explained it also.)

  • JunctionMonkey January 14, 2010 (4:42 pm)

    I have had the pleasure of doing business with Dianne for nearly five years. She has always had a smile on her face and a kind word for me. I will miss her cheerful countenance at the Wells Fargo counter. Best of luck to her in her retirement.

  • Chuck Steele January 14, 2010 (7:52 pm)

    Congratulation Diane.
    It really is nice to see that others appreciate you as much as we do.
    Now, get on home and let my brother spoil you.

  • Pinky Ridlon January 14, 2010 (8:09 pm)

    I think there is something to be said for a person to live in a cummunity and be so missed when she leaves but we welcome her retirement. She will have more time to paint and travel, so watch for her in local art shows. We are called the DYVA’s (Delicate Yet Vibrant Art). She will not be far. LUL’s

  • Tracey January 14, 2010 (8:44 pm)

    Im proud of my sister and love her very much. Tracey

  • WTF January 14, 2010 (9:05 pm)

    Congrats. Nice to see employers and customer recognize publicly good work. Diane, didn’t you paint that awesome pic of the wolf you guys have hanging in the branch? It’s awesome!!!

  • Georgi Slate January 14, 2010 (9:09 pm)

    Congratulations on your BIG day.We’re all so proud of you !!!!! Your a Great Lady and now everyone knows.I’ve had the pleasure of knowing you for over 59 years and treasure every moment that we have spent together. Ive got the best family in the world.
    Love you Sis

  • Angie Rivers January 14, 2010 (10:06 pm)

    While this article is about the incredible connection Diane has had with her customers and how she has played a role in each of their lives, its only part of the story. Diane touches the life of everyone she meets, everywhere she goes. She genuinely cares and selflessly gives her time, compassion,and encouragement without hesitation.

  • Sam Sherman January 15, 2010 (8:08 am)

    It was fun opening the store with you every day when I worked at West Seattle. You really set the bar for customer service. Congratulations on your retirement.

  • Lindsay January 15, 2010 (9:11 am)

    We all feel the love of Diane day after day. Our customer service bar has been set so high by you, and we will continue to work day after day to honor your name and your welcoming atmosphere you so easily create!

    I wish you the best of luck with all of the wonderful things in life you’ve earned and deserve!

    Don’t be a stranger! :)

  • Bryan Long January 15, 2010 (9:21 am)

    Congratulations on your retirement Diane! You will be missed by your team and your customers. You are a model for great customer service and it’s been an honor to work with you. Too bad cloning isn’t legal…

  • Dunno January 15, 2010 (11:27 am)

    Wells Fargo take note of Diane and the way she did her job. I only wish every bank had tellers like her. Whenever I had business to do at Wells Fargo I would wait for her to come open. Always smiling and friendly with a can do attitude. She’s the reason I became a customer and stock holder.


    Enjoy you time off and know you’ll be missed!
    You should be a consultant for banks teaching how to treat customers.
    If everyone treated others like you do this world would be a much better place, and this I know!!!

  • miws January 15, 2010 (1:05 pm)

    Congratulations Diane, on a well deserved retirement!


    I occasionally did Merchant Banking at WF, for my place of work at the time, from ’98 to ’03. I remember Diane very well, and what a great employee she was.


    She’s very professional, yet down to earth in her customer service, rather than coming across as some corporate programmed “robot”. This type of customer service is something that really gives an old-fashioned sense of community, and is not only something I appreciate as a customer, and try to seek out in deciding which businesses I want to do business with, but, having had mostly customer service/retail jobs my entire working life, is a type of behavior I have strived for as well.



  • Kemp G January 15, 2010 (1:40 pm)

    Congrats Diane,

    Signed the book, but thought I would add a note here too.

    When I first moved to West Seattle from Arizona, I stayed banking at Wells Fargo. I tried to move to other banks, but could leave the friendly Diane. It is hard to leave a kind person and great service. Everytime I was sitting at a new teller and they wanted my credentials, I would look at Diane. She would say “He is good” In the 10 years I have been here tellers come and go. It is sad to see her go. Rock on Diane. Keep painting and have fun with the grandkids.


  • Tracie D January 15, 2010 (2:32 pm)


    I am so happy for you! You are a truly wonderful person. I enjoyed seeing how the customers related to you. You knew everyone and everyone knew you. I wish you the best in your new life. It will be amazing!

  • Joni Newsom January 15, 2010 (2:53 pm)

    Happy Retirement Diane. I was so fortunate to start my banking career working with you and learning from you. You are one of a kind that gives so much to our customers and other team members. I wish you the happiest of retirement! I wanted to come celebrate with you today, but was not able to get out of the office.

  • Diane Steele January 15, 2010 (8:41 pm)

    I want to thank you all for commenting on this blog and to all of you who took the time to come see me today and write in my “book”. I have loved working for all of you for the last 22 years. Thanks again……….

  • Rudy January 15, 2010 (9:54 pm)

    Congrats on your Retirement! Simply put…you will be missed. You are a great example of what banking should be. I have personally seen your commitment to your customers…it was inspiring. Relationships are what sets Wells Fargo apart and you lived that vision. I thank you for taking the time and responsibility of sitting me down on my first day and setting that expectation; it has made me a better banker. You live up to the the reputation and we are all better for it. It was a pleasure and an honor to have worked with you.

    Enjoy your time with your family and hope to see you often…making sure we are living up to your standard.

    Best Wishes,

    Rudy Castillo

  • Diane January 26, 2010 (6:55 pm)

    WOW. Thank you all.

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