The loss of a lion…

The Alliance and the fraternal community lost an iconic leader this week with the passing of Jim Stoker, the long-time CEO of GBU Financial in Pittsburgh.

His innovative and courageous leadership resulted in the incredible growth of GBU into one of the nation’s largest fraternals.  He pioneered expansion strategies through both organic growth and acquisitions.  He was instrumental in acquiring several smaller fraternals of various ethnic origins and bringing them seamlessly into the GBU family.  By doing so he helped ensure the financial security of thousands of families, increased the funding for GBU’s community service projects and fraternal activities, and, in the process, earned an “A” rating from A.M. Best.  Ahem…

On a personal note, Jim and I worked together for my first six years as CEO of the Alliance, while he served as a Board member and officer.  As Chair of the Finance Committee, Jim was committed to growing the Alliance’s surplus so that we had the fiscal firepower to fight any political battle facing the fraternal sector.  He is largely responsible for the Alliance’s excellent financial condition and for the conservative budgeting and investment practices that will serve the organization and its members for years to come.

Jim could be opinionated and crusty, and was never shy about expressing his views on the Alliance and the future of the fraternal system with me on our regular Friday afternoon phone calls.  But it did not take much to get beyond the hard candy coating to the soft milk chocolate heart of gold.  Jim loved his family.  He loved GBU, its staff and its members.  He loved the financial services business and the fraternal business model.  And he loved the Alliance.

And we loved him for all that he stood for, all the he contributed, and the lasting legacy he leaves for his society and the fraternal sector.

Details on services and memorials follow.  Please keep Jim’s family close to your hearts as the mourn the loss of a lion.

James R. Stoker

It is with great sorrow that GBU announces the death of GBU’s National Secretary-Treasurer, CEO James R. Stoker. Jim died on September 18th of a continuing illness.

Jim’s 16-year term as CEO has strengthened GBU’s financial future forever. He will be remembered as an icon in GBU’s long 125-year history.

Please keep Jim’s family and close friends in your thoughts and prayers.

A funeral home visitation will be held at 2:00-8:00 p.m on Wednesday, September 20, at:
John F. Slater Funeral Home, Inc. (two blocks from GBU)
4201 Brownsville Road – Pittsburgh, PA 15227
(412) 881-4100

A church service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 21, at:
Zion Lutheran Church (across the street from GBU)
4301 Brownsville Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15236
(412) 881-5512

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the GBU Foundation and sent to:
GBU Financial Life, 4254 Saw Mill Run Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15227

Cards of condolence may be sent to:
Mrs. Barbara Stoker and Family
9 East Club Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
(or the GBU Home Office and we will forward them to Mrs. Stoker and family.)

Through his leadership at GBU, James R. Stoker “Made-a-Difference” in the lives of many.

Matthew M. Blistan, Jr.
National Vice President



  1. Joe, thank you for the nice words about Jim (everyone true)! He truly was a Lion in every sense of the word; in business and in also in his courageous battle with cancer. In working with Jim each day over the past 16 years I personally know that his number one directive to all GBU employees was to always do what is right for the GBU members. Not just an incredible businessman but a quintessential fraternalist too! As I put in my note you posted …. Through his leadership at GBU, James R. Stoker “Made-a-Difference” in the lives of many.

  2. Harald Borrmann : September 19, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Nice note, Joe, and spot on! Jim was a character of the first order, and his strength of will, conviction to do what’s right and love for the fraternal world were all second to none. Some people cannot be replaced and Jim was one of those few souls. RIP and God Bless.

  3. Another of my former fraternal colleagues gone, but not forgotten. Rest in Peace, Jim.

  4. We didn’t always agree, but those discussions revealed Jim’s vision and his passion. A great force and advocate for the future, Jim truly made a positive difference. I can hear his voice challenging those that follow to bravely and decisively pick up the colors … lead the effort forward. RIP James Stoker

  5. Serving on the board of the Alliance with Jim I came to fully appreciate his deep commitment to the system. He believed that fraternal insurance is as needed today as it was 100 plus years ago. Jim told it like it was and though he might have rubbed some people the wrong way with his candid observations, his heart was always in the right place. He will be missed.

  6. William C Hunger Jr : September 23, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    I came to know “Jimmy” almost 70 years ago as the brother of my best friend, Robert.
    Even younger than our peer group, Jim was eager to ‘catch up’ and would blend right in. He was nobody’s fool even at such a young age.
    I was saddened when Robert told me of his passing.

    My condolences to his family and to all who love him

  7. Partho Choudhury : October 9, 2017 at 5:05 am

    Though I didn’t know Jim Stoker personally, I used to hear about him from his brother and my good friend Robert. Jim Stoker was an exemplary figure and his work was path breaking. May his soul rest in peace

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *