Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thoughts about Richard T. Banks, 1925-2012

One evening a couple years ago I was home alone, minding my own business, watching TV, when there was a loud WHACK on the window over by the front door.  Scared the bejeezerz out of me.  Wanting to catch the culprit, but with cautious trepidation due to my self preservation instinct (I'm a coward), I opened the door and walked out on the porch.  Standing there holding his cane up was an elderly neighbor guy who lived around the corner from me.  It was Richard Banks.

"BB," I says, "how are ya?"

"Look at that sunset!" he says.

Richard Banks is an old family friend and former Bishop at my church.  BB is short for either Bishop Banks or Brother Banks, take your pick.  He liked me to call him BB.  He is an amazing man.

Richard Banks pictured here with one of his sons, Jimmy Banks.

Bishop Banks died yesterday at the respected old age of 87 years. I'm saddened by his loss, but also very happy for him.  He was never one to let a sunset or a pretty flower go unnoticed or appreciated, so the thought of him passing into a place like heaven, which is reputed to be quite beautiful, gives my tears the happiness that he would have wanted for all who love him.

Bishop Banks was the most optimistic person I've ever been around.  He was always cheerful, even after leukemia and chemotherapy. He was always walking around the neighborhood cheering up others, even when he had to start using a cane, and eventually a walker.  He was always reaching out and visiting the sick, the weary, and the outcast, even when his own wife, Margie, was facing illness at home. He was such a positive force for good in this world.  It seemed to me BB's favorite word was "beautiful".

Bishop Banks at the Spanish Fork, Utah 24th of July parade in 1989.
 Here is a link to BB's tribute on the Walker Mortuary website:  It is a great tribute, and well written, but, of course, leaves so much out.  What can you say in a one-page tribute about a man like Richard Banks?  I want to add a couple of details from my meager perspective...

BB was born in 1925 and raised in Spanish Fork a short distance from my Dad's family.  My Dad was born in 1937, so BB was quite a bit older than him.  Dad was 7 years old when BB went off to war in 1944.  At that time, my Dad loved listening to the war news, and following the movements of the armies in Europe and in the Pacific.  My Dad remembered that, at age 7, he knew that BB was serving in Patton's 3rd Army in Europe.  He doesn't remember when or how he learned that BB was reported missing in action, but later the details emerged.

While participating in the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg, Bishop Banks was wounded by a German grenade on Christmas Day, 1944.  After receiving life-saving treatment for his wounds, BB was loaded into a boxcar with other captured American soldiers, and shipped off to spend the rest of the war in a POW camp.

US POWs in Germany.
 The camp was liberated before the end of the war when Allied troops pushed into Germany.  After about 6 weeks at a military hospital in Paris to recover from malnutrition and other such POW camp related stuff, BB was released in May, 1945.  BB told me once that while he was walking around Paris, checking out the sights, he happened to be walking under the Eiffel Tower when speakers all over Paris broadcast a statement by Winston Churchill saying that the war in Europe was over.  He talked about the joyous shouts and hugs and kisses and dancing of thousands of people in the streets everywhere he looked.  Wow!!  History is cool to read about, but to shake its hand is a stirring experience.

Bishop Banks has a love for the USA rivaled by none.  He has a flag pole in his front yard, and flies the American Flag every day.  BB is frequently an honored guest at civic events, school assemblies, and all kinds of patriotic ceremonies.  He was so happy a few years ago when he was able to travel back to Washington DC and visit the World War II Memorial with a close friend with whom he shared his POW experience. 

That's BB on the left with friend John Anderson, and me on the right.  We are visiting the traveling Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall that came through Spanish Fork last year.  We are pointing to the name good friend Fern Lindley's son, Marvin Lindley, who was killed in Vietnam. 

Honored guests at Spanish Fork's Landmark High School.  That's Fern Lindley on the right. 
 I wanna go back and talk about my Dad's feelings about BB.  My Dad was not religious, but did believe in God and His commandments.  He believed in them, but didn't keep them.  BB was a very religious man.  When a religious man visits a heathen, the heathen often feels ashamed of his bad habits and poor choices.  When BB would drop by (at least once a month), a lot of times Dad was outside relaxing on his picnic table with a beer.  When he saw BB walking through the carport, Dad would quickly put out his smoke and hide his beer under the table.  BB was the kind of guy who thought the best of you, no matter what.  BB insisted Dad get his beer out and enjoy it while it was still cold, and would often say something like, "Boy, a cold beer sure sounds good on a day like today."  Just no judgment, all accepting, down to earth, treat you like you deserved the same respect you know he deserved. 

My Dad thought more highly of Bishop Banks than any other man on earth.  I remember one time my nephew, Adam, criticized the owner of the house around the block for putting up his Christmas lights so early.  Dad was quiet most of the time, but when Adam said that, Dad's demeanor changed into a bear.  "Don't you say anything bad about that man! Don't you know he was wounded and captured by the Germans on Christmas Day, 1944?  He can put up his #$*@ Christmas lights any time he wants!  He can leave them up all year if he wants!" 

BB came down to watch his old church building get torn down. 
The old Spanish Fork 4th Ward church building was torn down a couple summers ago.  BB came down to watch the ceremony, and he took a couple of bricks home with him.  He was baptized in that church.  You can kind of detect in his face some sadness maybe, but he wasn't really.  He was excited about the growth of the area, and knew that the new building would be beautiful.  The new building opened up just recently. BB loved it.  His will be the 1st funeral held there.  There he goes being historic again.

One more story.  Part of Spanish Fork Main Street is lined with large, oval flower boxes.  Each Spring, different groups go down and plant flowers and whatnot.  Last Spring, after deciding that some of the planter boxes were lacking, BB walked over to Main Street and planted squash in several of them.  Isn't that awesome?  I was going to get down there and take some pictures of them when they got huge, but I never did.  Maybe someone else did.

Yesterday I dropped by to see his family.  They had his flag at half mast.  That was kind of a tear jerker. 

The current bishop of our church, John Stewart, visited Bishop Banks in a specialized rehabilitation facility in Provo the day before he died.  I understand that BB said to the bishop, "I'm at peace.  I'm going to die tomorrow."  And he did.

Goodbye, BB.  Say "hey" to my Dad for me, k? 

Thanks for listening.  And remember (WHACK!!!) to look at the sunset.


  1. i am one of richards granddaughters. THANK YOU so much for writing such nice words about such a special man! he was an example to everyone. thanks!

  2. I am also a granddaughter and wanted to thank you for taking the time to write this. It's so nice to hear stories about grandpa and know how many lives he touched. I didn't know he would be the first funeral in that church, I'm sure he's smiling about that. Thanks again!

  3. With all my heart ... Thank You!!! I am his granddaughter and he was the best man to ever live! He was special and one of a kind!!! Thanks for taking the time to pay tribute to a wonderful man!!

  4. Thanks so much. Love to read all those good things and the best thing is, its
    about my grandpa. Love you grandpa! Thanks for all your kind words!

  5. He truely was a genuine person. Always there for anyone, everyone, anytime! Thank you for sharing this with us. He is missed by many and there willbe a huge void in alot of us!

  6. Thanks for that I have only known Grandpa Banks for about five years and was always happy to see him! Loved that man!

  7. Thank you very much for this post. Richard is my uncle and the best of the best. In reading these words and thinking about what a fine man he is and how much I am going to miss him it brought tears to my eyes. (This is going to be a hard funeral.) Our visits to Spanish Fork will never be the same.

  8. John, Thank You very much for sharing this with us. Grandpa was so special to all of us. I was born on Christmas day, and love the season very much as you know what happened to Grandpa on that day. He is truely a Son of God. I know that we are all better people because of Him. It is our turn to fill his shoes. Remember "As I have loved you, Love one another."

  9. this was amaizing to read! thank you so much! I will forever miss my grandpa Richard!!

  10. Fantastic tribute, JB! Thanks for sharing your memories.

  11. Thanks for sharing these beautiful memories of my sweet Uncle Richard! Fun to read about such an exceptional man! So many great pictures as well. Your testimony brought tears to my eyes. Thank you again!

  12. Thank you John for all the special words about my dad. I want to shake your hand one day ............Roger and Kathy

  13. Thank you for taking the time to write such wonderful words about my grandpa he truely was such an amazing man with the biggest heart And will be greatly missed by so many

  14. Hi John, I am another one of his grandaughters! This was really neat to read and we all appreciate it very much!! I loved reading your stories and seeing these pictures. Grandpa was the most remarkable man I have ever known and it's neat to think about how he influenced so many. I can't wait to see him again. Thanks so much for this amazing tribute!!!

  15. Thank you so much John for writing this. This definitely helped me with it all.

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