DOWNINGTOWN >> Praise poured in this week for William S. Latoff, the chairman and CEO of DNB Financial Corp. who died on Monday after a battle with cancer.
Remembered not only for his ability to steer the parent company of DNB First through tumultuous times that claimed many other small community banks, Latoff was also recalled for his dedication to Chester County institutions and charities.
“He was one on the most caring, loving individuals you could ever meet,” said longtime friend and West Chester attorney Joseph E. “Skip” Brion. “He was much more than an entrepreneur or a businessman. No matter what the cause, if someone gave him a call, he was ready to help.”
(See obituary in today’s paper.)
Among the organizations that most benefitted from Latoff’s large capacity for caring were the Chester County Historical Society and the Devon Horse Show, according to several associates.
Both institutions were in crisis mode when Latoff stepped in to help, said Gary Smith, president and CEO of the Chester County Economic Development Council.
When developers proposed a plan that would have built on the Lancaster Avenue property where the Devon Horse Show is annually held, Latoff came up with a plan that infused the Chester County institution with the cash it needed to upgrade the facility.
“He saved it, and nothing says Chester County like the Devon Horse Show,” Smith said.
Similarly, the Historical Society had fallen on hard economic times and the building it’s housed in on High Street in West Chester was in need of expensive repairs when Latoff agreed to become chairman of the board, Smith recalled.
“Bill got them the grant money they needed and today the historical society is a great organization,” Smith said. “After he fixed it, he stepped aside.”
Such stories are no surprise to those who knew him, noted William Lamb, former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice and another longtime friend who said the words that best describe Latoff are “fiercely loyal.”
“He was a gem of a guy and he’s going to be greatly missed,” Lamb said. “It’s a devastating loss to all of us who knew him and a devastating blow to all of Chester County.”
Guy Ciarrocchi, president and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry, said Latoff left a rich legacy.
“The chamber community is deeply saddened by Bill’s passing,” Ciarrocchi said. “Bill was not a founding father, but he was a constant leader and respected counselor in every aspect of our mission. His impact will be felt for generations.”
In addition to the bank he is credited with turning around, Latoff owned the Jaguar Land Rover West Chester car dealership and had been active in real estate development early in his career.
Latoff first became a director at DNB Financial Corp. in Downingtown in 1998; he was named chairman of the board in 2003 and became its CEO in 2004.
“Those were very, very challenging times,” Smith recalled, putting Latoff into the same category of Chester County banking legends as Charles Swope at First National Bank of Chester County in West Chester and Ellen Ann Roberts of First Financial Bank in Downingtown. “Bill was a very talented guy. He saw it as an iconic institution that was in a lot of trouble and he re-branded it and made it profitable again.”
Many of those in the Downingtown area said they and the institutions located there will miss Latoff’s support.
Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell noted that he had often met with Latoff, who was interested in talking about the development projects happening in the borough.
“He was an engaged businessman, someone that was very interested in how our community is moving forward,” Maxwell said. “He always made himself available for whatever was needed.”
Maxwell described Latoff as a cheerleader for progress in the borough.
“Downingtown is a better place because of his commitment to our area,” Maxwell said. “I join the entire Downingtown community in keeping Bill’s family, friends and the DNB First family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Latoff’s support was appreciated at a grass-roots level in the borough.
“The Downingtown Library board and staff wish to express our sorrow at William Latoff’s passing, said Deborah Miles, chairwoman of the library’s board of directors. “Bill’s dedication and service to the library as the co-chair for the library’s building campaign was a testament to his love for this community ... He will be greatly missed by us all.”
The Downingtown Area School District community was equally saddened by news of Latoff’s passing.
“I have known Bill for many years,” said Richard Fazio, director of finance at the Downingtown Area School District. “He was a great friend. He was deeply committed to this community and generously shared his expertise and knowledge to better Downingtown and our school district. He was a remarkable man who will be greatly missed.”
According to his obituary, Latoff held the following positions at non-profit institutions: chairman of the Chester County Industrial Development Authority, chairman of the Chester County Library Trust Board, board member of the Chester County Economic Development Council, chairman of the Nominating Advisory Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and member of the American Bankers Association’s Public Affairs Committee. He also was named the 2015 Distinguished Citizen by the Chester County Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
“We’ve lost a giant in the business, civic, political and charitable communities,” said Lou Kupperman, a Berwyn attorney and current chairman of the Chester County Industrial Development Authority. “Bill gave his time and his treasure generously. We’ve lost a great light here.”