Zale Crawford, CFP®, ChFC®
Founder and Financial Planner
Zale and his wife, Kristen, have lived in Olympia ever since they were married 18 years ago and have two sons, Sam, age 14, and Charlie, age 9. Both Zale and Kristen have participated in sports throughout their lives; in fact, both had college athletic scholarships. Zale had a football scholarship at the University of Puget Sound, and Kristen had a basketball scholarship at St. Martin’s College. Their boys are following suit, each participating in several sports, including football, baseball, basketball, and wrestling. Zale and Kristen understand and appreciate that team sports can help children and teenagers develop skills in leadership, self-discipline, and goal-setting, in addition to building physical strength. Zale has coached baseball for the last eight years and is currently coaching Charlie’s baseball and football teams.
Zale is a passionate outdoorsman, and he and his family can be found during the spring and summer months on their boat, fishing for salmon, crab, and shrimp, and sharing their catches with family and friends. He hunts in the fall and winter, and his family often joins him in that, too. They also like camping, hiking, and biking together when they are not busy with sports.
Zale founded Pillar Financial Group in 2013, believing that most investors would prefer a local, independent firm to a large, traditional brokerage company. He has 21 years of prior experience in financial services, working as a senior financial planner and agency manager for two large national companies. He grew up in Elma, Washington, and graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 1995 with a BA in business administration, minoring in economics. Kristen has been an elementary school teacher in the Tumwater School District for the last 19 years, the last 10 in the Tumwater School District. They recently purchased land in Thurston County and are in the throes of building a new home there.
Volunteer work is important to Zale. In addition to coaching youth sports, he serves on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Thurston County Club, whose mission is to inspire and enable youth to realize their greatness. He also gives time to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, an organization that helps fund and conduct habitat stewardship projects for elk and other wildlife.
Todd Lindley, CFP®, LUTCF
Todd came to Pillar Financial Group in 2016 after running his own financial planning firm, Lindley Financial, for 33 years in Montesano. Todd launched his company soon after receiving his degree from Western Washington University’s School of Business and Economics. Starting Lindley Financial in a small town was a leap of faith, but it was very successful when combined with Todd’s remarkable work ethic. Todd’s wife, Gerrilynn, worked with him from the time the business opened, and two staff members soon joined them. Both Todd and Gerrilynn felt it was a privilege and an honor to serve the Montesano community, especially since Todd grew up there, working in the logging industry as a choker setter to pay for college.
They are both very happy their daughter, Marisa, joined the company in March 2016. This was particularly exciting because they decided to relocate the company to Olympia in November 2016, merging Lindley Financial Services with Pillar Financial Group. For several years, Todd had been looking for a financial planning partner with the same values as his own, and he finally found this in Zale Crawford, CFP®.
Although Todd misses the small-town camaraderie of Montesano, he is happy to have moved to Olympia for many reasons. Many of his clients are from the Olympia area, and Todd's son, Jayce, also lives in Olympia. Jayce is currently a student at Clover Park Technical College in the Mechatronics program.
Todd coached numerous teams for the Montesano Youth Soccer Club over a 21 year period. He coached both Jayce's and Marisa’s teams throughout their school years, and continued to coach for 10 years after his children were finished with soccer. He found that coaching gave him an opportunity to demonstrate to his players how much they could accomplish working together as a team, and to teach them life concepts such as accountability, discipline, and respect. He is honored that many players have kept in touch with him long after they left their soccer teams.
Todd also has a close relationship with his alma mater, Western Washington University. He is an emeritus board member on the Alumni Association, and he and Gerrilynn fund scholarships both at WWU and at the Grays Harbor Community Foundation. Todd was recently recognized by WWU as the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for the College of Business and Economics. He was very proud of Marisa when she graduated from WWU in 2015, and was very honored to be the featured speaker at her graduation ceremony. Todd is also an emeritus board member for the Grays Harbor Community Foundation, which manages public donations for the benefit of multiple nonprofit agencies in Grays Harbor and Pacific County. He served in several positions at the Montesano Presbyterian Church, and has regularly taught classes in financial principles through adult community education programs over the years.
Todd and Gerrilynn travel frequently to their second home in Scottsdale, Arizona. While Todd enjoys working in both Olympia and Scottsdale locations, he can still regularly be found on the golf course or in the gym.
Chris Bafus, RICP®
Chris and his wife, Allison, were both born and raised in Spokane and were happy to return after they finished college. Chris graduated from Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley and Allison from Ferris High School in Spokane. They met after they both graduated from college: Allison from Eastern Washington University in Cheney with a degree in marketing and Chris from Washington State University in Pullman with a degree in business finance.
Chris began his career in financial planning at MetLife, working first for two years under the tutelage of his father, Gerry Bafus, who managed the MetLife office in Spokane for 35 years. Chris took over as manager in 2002 and continued to build on his father’s success, creating an office with a reputation for genuine camaraderie and collaboration among the planners. He joined Pillar Financial Group in 2015.
Allison works with Chris and Keith in the Spokane office as their Client Relationship Manager, and she also is the chief manager for their three children: Chloe, age 13; and twins, Gwen and Cole, age 10. All of them are active soccer players, and Chris has coached them all in the past, sometimes all three in the same season! Besides keeping them physically active, Chris knows that soccer has helped them learn resilience, cooperation, teamwork, and persistence. The family spends their free time in the summer months on their boat, fishing, tubing, and swimming with family and friends in Lake Pend Oreille and Lake Cocolalla. In the winter, they enjoy ski trips together at Schweitzer Mountain. So far, they are all downhill skiers—no snowboarders!
Chris is an active member of the Manito United Methodist Church, serving as their Memorial and Foundation Chair. The Foundation is responsible for funding capital improvements and new programs for the church. The church is over 100 years old, and a committee has recently been formed to look at extensive remodeling options, looking at modernizing the church while preserving it s beauty and dignity. Since Chris loves old buildings and antiques in general, he is looking forward to working on this committee. Chris also serves on the Board of Directors for the United Methodist Foundation of the Northwest, where he and other board members help direct the most prudent ways to invest foundation funds; and on the board of the Rockwood Retirement Community, a Spokane life plan community where he is a member of the pension committee and the finance committee.
Kathleen O’Connor, ChFC®
After growing up in Astoria, Oregon, Kathleen graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in institutional management and dietetics. As a dietitian, she worked at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, the National School Lunch Program, the Division of Health in Missouri, and Memorial Community Hospital in Jefferson City, Missouri. None of these jobs quite suited her, though, and she went on to earn her MBA from the University of Missouri-Columbia while her husband, Gary Cullen, earned his master’s degree in public administration there at the same time.
When she and Gary returned to Seattle, she joined MetLife for eight years as a financial services representative. This position proved to be perfect for her, as she loved the independence, the challenge, and the client relationships. After that, with two small children, Kathleen and Gary moved to Sacramento. While there, Kathleen was a small business owner, working part-time as a freelance cancer registrar and as a grant writer. After 12 years in California, the family moved back to the Pacific Northwest, where Kathleen rejoined MetLife and built a financial planning practice in Vancouver, Washington. She found that her background in the health care field as both a dietitian and a cancer registrar helped her understand her clients’ health care fears and vulnerabilities very well. Kathleen joined Pillar Financial Group in 2015.
Kathleen spent several years volunteering as a mediator for Community Mediation Services. Now she serves on the board of directors for the Council for the Homeless in Vancouver, which leads community efforts to end homelessness in Clark County. In her spare time, Kathleen enjoys quilting, and has judged many quilt shows in the past. She used to be a runner, but her knees don’t like that much anymore, so now she participates in one or two sprint triathlons per summer. “Sprint” means short: generally a half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride, and 3-mile run. In 2016, her triathlon was along the Columbia River in Vancouver, and in May of 2017 she and Avi Curry completed the Gold Nugget Women's Triathlon in Anchorage. Kathleen and Gary have arranged several home exchange vacations, one in France, one in Italy, and two in New Zealand. They hope to arrange another soon, going back to France or maybe to Australia or Israel.
Gary has recently retired from the corporate world of energy consulting and has started his own business in a particular niche of that field. Their daughter, McKenzie, works at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library, and their son, Jack, works with Gary in energy consulting.
Neal’s office has been in his home in Republic, a very small town in northeastern Washington, for the last two years. Neal and his daughter, Avi, work jointly with most of their clients, with Avi doing most of the financial planning and Neal doing most of the investment management. Like Avi, Neal joined Pillar Financial Group in 2015, after a 22-year career at MetLife and a 9-year career at Mutual of New York (MONY).
Neal was raised in Syracuse, New York, and graduated from American University in Washington, DC, with a degree in elementary education. After college, he joined his parents in Israel, where he completed a second degree in dairy science and lived on Kibbutz Degania for 11 years with his wife and children.
The family moved to Anchorage to be near his wife’s family, and Neal’s first job was at the Anchorage Daily News, overseeing paper carriers. He quickly moved to MONY, and then to MetLife, where he was the branch manager for all of Alaska for many years. He embraced investment and financial planning as Met moved from being an insurance company to being a financial advisory firm, and served as an advisor to the firm during that transition.
Along the way he completed studies at the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy and is certified as an academic associate in logotherapy. Viktor Frankl was a German psychiatrist who survived four concentration camps in World War II. After the war, he developed logotherapy, a type of therapy that focuses on how people search for meaning in their lives, and wrote his classic textbook, Man’s Search for Meaning. Neal uses logotherapy every day in his financial planning practice.
Neal is a Silver Life Master in bridge, and he’s an excellent chess player. He has online bridge and chess games going at all times. He also plays the Native American flute, which is how he met his wife, Liu Hsiu, who also plays the flute and many other instruments. Like many of his clients, Neal’s children have scattered. He has three daughters: Avi, who lives in Anchorage and works with him; Yael, who also lives in Anchorage; and Talya, who lives in Portland, Oregon. His son, David, lives in Minnesota.
Avi Curry, RICP®
Avi had an unusual start to life, living her first six years in Kibbutz Degania at the south end of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. From there, she moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where she has lived ever since, except for a brief stint in Wilsonville, Oregon. Before joining her father, Neal Martin, at MetLife in 2010, Avi earned a degree at the University of Alaska Anchorage and then worked in several positions that built her skills in communication and building caring relationships, including running her own daycare, working in a pediatric office, and serving as the activities director at an assisted living facility.
Avi first worked for Neal at MetLife as a client relationship manager, but soon began assisting him with financial planning, and then became a financial planner herself. The two of them continue to work as a team with most of their clients now. She joined Pillar Financial Group in 2015 and has been happy with the sense of community she has found here.
Avi and her husband, Westen, have two children: Scott and Kate. Scott is 24 and is exploring farming education opportunities, and Kate is 14. An ninth grader, Kate is active in Girl Scouts, loves all types of arts and crafts, and is passionate about animals. Avi has regularly pitched in to help with Girl Scout activities. Westen is a website developer and systems analyst for the Federal Aviation Agency. Westen, Scott, and Kate all practice Shoshin Ryu, a Japanese-based system of martial arts. Westen and Avi were high school sweethearts and met when both were members of the Anchorage Youth Symphony. Avi continues to play the violin in the Society of Strings Community Orchestra.
Avi loves the outdoors, particularly in the winter, when she can cross-country ski. She has participated in several cross-country ski events, including the 25-kilometer Tour of Anchorage and the always entertaining Alaska Ski for Women, North America’s largest women-only cross-country ski event. The Alaska Ski for Women event raises funds for local nonprofit organizations, which aim to stop domestic abuse. She has also run three marathons in the past, two in San Francisco and one in Portland, and hopes to do one again next year. And, along with Kathleen O’Connor, she completed the Gold Nugget Women's Triathlon in May, 2017.
Keith came to Pillar Financial Group in 2016 with extensive experience in financial planning, having worked for eight years as the financial planning director at MetLife. In that capacity, he worked with 50 planners, helping them to develop the best possible financial plans for their clients, and was juggling 8 to 15 plans at any given time. He started his financial services career at Bank of America, working there in merchant services for three years after he graduated from Eastern Washington University with degrees in management information systems and operations management. He then joined MetLife, first working for several years as a financial planner and then assuming the financial planning director position.
Keith and his wife, Kelly, are both Spokane natives and have lots of family in the area. Kelly also graduated from Eastern Washington University with a degree in teaching and is a second-grade teacher at Liberty Lake Elementary School. Keith and Kelly have two sons, Mason and Logan. Mason is a sophomore in engineering at Montana State University in Bozeman, and works on the grounds crew at Liberty Lake Golf Course during the summer. Logan is a freshman in high school and is on the school football team. He is also a member of a club lacrosse team.
The family enjoys skiing in the winter at Schweitzer Mountain and Lookout Pass, and all the activities that the surrounding lakes provide during the summer: swimming, boating, and tubing. They are avid fans of several football teams: the WSU Cougars, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Gonzaga University Bulldogs. At the end of the college basketball season each year, Keith, Zale, and Chris make a trip to Las Vegas to participate in the mayhem of March Madness in that city. This follows their trip in February (this one with their wives) to join in the Super Bowl festivities. The year the Seahawks won the Super Bowl was a great year for all of them! Keith and Chris have known each other since childhood, as their fathers were college roommates who have remained lifelong friends.