The flags are at half-staff atop downtown Tacoma’s headquarters of Columbia Bank in honor of its long-time leader, Melanie Dressel, who died suddenly and unexpectedly Sunday night. 

Inside and at the more than 140 bank branches through the region, employee-team members somberly carry on providing excellence in customer service, just as their leader would have wanted.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my friend and colleague Melanie Dressel (who) had served as our Chief Executive Officer since 2003,” said William Weyerhaeuser, chairman of the board of Columbia, in a written statement. “Under her tireless leadership, Columbia grew to be widely recognized as one of the best regional community banks in the country, and has been continually acknowledged as one of the best workplaces in the Northwest.”

From a corporate stance, and to assure investors and employees, the statement continues, “The Board of Directors and our management team are working closely together to ensure a smooth and effective transition. Further details will be available in the coming days.”

Dressel’s death came less than a month after Columbia Banking System announced record fourth quarter and full year 2016 financial results. That the sudden executive shift brought essentially no change to stock trading of COLB on the NASDAQ exchange is testimony to strength of the financial institution’s management team as assembled by the late CEO. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this difficult time,” Weyerhaeuser’s statement added. That family includes her husband, Robert Dressel, two adult sons with their spouses, and two grandchildren.