WARREN - Friends this week recalled prominent former Warren businessman James R. Izant II for his intimate knowledge of the banking business, but more than that, for his love of life.
Izant was laid to rest in Warren's Oakwood Cemetery Tuesday after passing away last week at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston following a long illness. He had been awaiting needed organ transplants when he died Oct. 28 at the age of 55.
Izant's family founded and operated for many years Trumbull Savings and Loan. Tuesday's funeral procession led by a horse-drawn carriage carrying Izant's casket paused momentarily outside the building that once housed the bank's headquarters at the corner of North Park Avenue and High Street in downtown Warren, where Izant had worked for many years as executive vice president and served on the board of directors.
"He cared," recalled his longtime friend, Warren funeral director James McFarland. "When he worked at the bank, he made sure he talked to every single employee and made sure to see how they were doing."
Warren architect Randy Baker, who got to know Izant when they served together on the Trumbull Savings and Loan Board of Directors, also recalled his friend's caring nature.
"He knew the banking business, there's no doubt about it, but more than that he was a very generous person who always tried to see the positives, not the negatives, about everything," Baker said.
Jim Best of Best Horse Carriage of Gustavus, left, and Robert Izant III, son of deceased James R. Izant II, lead the procession Tuesday afternoon along Niles Road S.E. to Oakwood Cemetery. Izant, a member of a prominent Warren family, died last week in South Carolina.
Izant and his family had moved to Hilton Head in 2000 after the bank was sold and Izant retired from the banking business after spending some time working at Second National Bank and serving on that company's board of directors.
Izant was a fourth-generation banker, following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, who had founded the business in 1889. His family held controlling interest for 109 years. Stocks for the savings and loan association were sold to Second National Bank in 1998. That company eventually was sold to Sky Bank and then Huntington National Bank, which operates some of the branches today.
In Hilton Head, McFarland said Izant lived life to the fullest while he acted as a private investor and philanthropist.
"He knew his time was short, and he packed some fun into it," McFarland said.
Plagued by heart problems, Izant had undergone a prior heart transplant about 12 years ago. McFarland relayed an anecdote about a visit to South Carolina following that earlier heart surgery.
"We went down after the first (heart) transplant, and ran into his transplant doctor, and he introduced me as his undertaker," McFarland recalled with a chuckle. "The doctor said, 'What? Don't you have any confidence in me?"
Describing Izant's smile as infectious and his warm involvement with people in all walks of life, McFarland said Izant became so involved in the lives of his caretakers that he decided to create the Izant Family Foundation Scholarship at the Medical University of South Carolina for nursing scholarships at the South Carolina Hospital where he was treated.
Izant leaves his wife of 25 years, Natalie Schoch Izant; his son, Robert T. Izant III, who is attending Winthrop College; and their daughter, Chloe J. Izant, at home.