A Cherokee County native, Neese had a career in banking that spanned more than 50 years and is best remembered as the CEO and chairman of Etowah Bank in Canton for more than 20 years, from 1975 to 1998.
He also served on the Cherokee County School Board in the early 1990s and was chairman in 1994.
Marguerite Cline was school superintendent at the time and said Neese brought his business and banking knowledge to the table.
“At the time Pierce Neese came on the school board, Cherokee County was in a period of phenomenal growth. We were building schools and additions to existing schools as quickly as we could,” Cline said. “Because of all the growth in the school system during my tenure as school superintendent, the budget probably more than doubled. With his experience in banking and investments, his expertise was invaluable.”
Cline said Neese was a valuable member of the board.
“Pierce loved Cherokee County and was well respected in the community. He kept both feet on the ground and took his position on the board seriously. I once described him as a ‘workhorse’ on the board, not a ‘show horse.’”
Involved in the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce, Neese served as volunteer chairman of the Chamber board from 1983-84.
Cherokee Chamber President Pam Carnes said Neese helped many businesses in the community get their start and contributed heavily to the economic development of Cherokee County.
“I don’t even know the number of businesses he assisted as they opened their doors and expanded. And there are many in this community that he gave the chance to be successful and who owe him a debt of gratitude for helping them get their start,” Carnes said.
The chamber leader said Neese will be missed in the community.
“He stayed on top of things and mindful of growth in the community, not just from the standpoint of money, but in growing this community and, because of his contribution, many businesses will continue to be successful,” Carnes said. “He helped people and he gave them the chance. He was a fixture in our community and will be greatly missed.”
Neese began his banking career in Atlanta in 1959 with Citizens and Southern Bank of Atlanta. In 1965, he became a loan officer for Roswell Bank and three years later became president of Bank of Riverdale.
He worked in all phases of operations and was involved with the implementation of the first computer system for the entire statewide banking system.
After Etowah Bank was sold in 1999, Neese went on in 2002 to establish the Bank of Woodstock, a branch of United Security Bank based in Sparta, which Pierce acquired in 1974.
Retired banker Clayton Bartlett first met Neese in 1970 and said they quickly became friends.
“We were associated together in just about everything,” Bartlett said Thursday. “He was just a wonderful guy all the years I knew him and one of the best friends a man could ever have.”
Bartlett said he and Neese, even as they aged, always made time to get together at least once a week.
Dennis Burnette, president and CEO of Cherokee Bank, remembered Neese as a fair and successful businessman who was at the helm of many successful institutions.
“He was somebody I looked up to,” Burnette said Thursday.
Neese was honored in 2009 by the Community Bankers Association of Georgia for his years of service to community banking.
“Pierce Neese is a tribute to the local communities he has served and to the community banking industry, as a whole,” the tribute stated. “It is fitting that he be commended for this dedication to enriching the lives of others.”
Neese was a member of Antioch Christian Church in Canton and was married for 54 years to his wife, Patsy Hunt Neese.
He was also known as an avid golfer.
Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Antioch Christian Church in Canton.
Staff writer Joshua Sharpe contributed to this article.