Friends remember Christian
NATCHEZ — John Christian leaves behind more than a legacy of problem solving smarts, love for his family, a banjo and success at his bank.
Christian’s unexpected death Tuesday at age 63 also leaves a missing link for those who knew him best.
Whether it was in his professional role as chief executive officer of United Mississippi Bank or when he was hanging out with friends, Christian was the needed link for many, friends and co-workers said.
“He was the glue that holds everything together,” UMB Chief Financial Officer Adrian Sandel said.
Christian, who served as right-hand man to UMB board Chairman James Biglane, began working at the bank in 1978.
Christian started his banking career as a teller Britton & Koontz Bank, though, UMB President Sammy Porter said.
After a move to an Alabama bank, Christian joined UMB — then called First Natchez Bank — leading the computer department.
He worked his way to the top, and has led the day-to-day operations of the bank in recent years.
“He was great to work for,” Porter said. “He took care of his employees and really cared about other people.”
Sandel, who has known Christian all of his life, said Christian was the problem solver at UMB.
“He was a great boss, the kind you can talk to,” Sandel said. “He’d always say, ‘Don’t worry about that, there’s nothing you can break that we can’t fix.’ He just put everyone’s mind at ease.”
The same traits made Christian a friend and companion to others on the lake playing or in the woods hunting.
For Vidalia resident Marc Archer, Christian filled a different sort of gap in life.
“He was almost like a father to me,” Archer said. “My father died about six years ago, and I was very close to Mr. John.
“I just thought the world of him.”
Natchez businessman Joe Stedman had the opportunity during the last 30 years to cultivate a friendship with Christian that started in elementary school.
“I met him when I was 9 or 10, and everyone called him ‘Sport.’ He was truly a sport.”
A genuinely good guy, Stedman said, Christian had a fondness for practical jokes and fun.
“He was always just a character, full of life,” Stedman said.
Natchez attorney Bruce Kuehnle remembers the same side of Christian.
“He took great delight in putting you in a spot and watching you squirm a little bit before he let you off the hook,” Kuehnle said.
Away from the bank and the computers he understood so well, Christian enjoyed music most, friends said. He played banjo and guitar.
Christian also enjoyed lake living, spending time on boats and Jet Skis in recent years.
But his love of fun only describes part of Christian, Kuehnle said. Another word sums him up best.
“He was very devoted as a friend, very devoted to that bank and very devoted to his community and family,” Kuehnle said.
“That’s just the word for him, devoted.”
Services were Friday. Christian is survived by his wife, Edie; daughter, Katherine Christian and son, Scott Christian, among others.