Sen. Sherrod Brown, Henry Banks and Ed Helvey in February 2006.

From Ed Helvey:

I was saddened this week to hear of the passing of Henry Banks. I met Henry in 1996 at an obvious place, a meeting of the Delaware County Democratic Party. Henry was a fixture of the party and had served as Chair and was one of our Democratic members of the Delaware County Board of Elections for 16 years. Along with serving us as a member of the Board of Elections, Henry served for years as a member of the Delaware County Jury Commission. 

Whenever a candidate for office would ask for advice on what they should do, I would tell them to go visit Henry at his farm market. Henry could tell if someone was real or not. This included Sherrod Brown in his first campaign for senate in 2006. I would also tell them to buy some BBQ and a pie, simply because they were the best around. 

Henry was deeply immersed in his community. Along with being active in local veterans groups, he was instrumental in the foundation and growth of the Liberty Community Center.  Joeann Phipps, who used to run the center, said, “whenever I had to meet with foundations or potential donors or grantors, all I had to do was call Henry. I’d say ‘I have a meet at 2 this afternoon’ and he would drop everything to explain why we needed a new building, or a new bus, or a new playground. The day care center lucked out with Henry”.  His dedication to the center spanned decades and it could be fair to say that the center would not exist as it is today without Henry Banks.

He loved his neighborhood and did all he could to bring opportunities and comfort to the less fortunate who lived there. Joeann said, “what I admired was that he said it like it was. He was authentic. He didn’t put on airs. He knew what was good for the day care center, the Democratic Party, and the people of Delaware’s south end. He was angry that the people in the south end did not have enough to eat, so at the Banks Market he worked to see that people could get food for their families.”

Many of us were at the Inauguration celebration in 2009 the night before President Obama was sworn in. We asked Henry to give his thoughts about that historical occasion. He told us about growing up in Delaware, the roadblocks they faced, and the accomplishments of his family. We were brought to tears when he told us he would decorate the graves of his deceased family members with Obama buttons as a tribute to the struggle they had all been through. 

The final time I spent some one-on-one time with Henry, was summertime a couple years ago. We sat in his garage and talked about politics. After that, the conversation turned to what was the most important to Henry. He brought out a box of memorabilia and he went through it to tell me about his family: his wife Annie, his brothers and sisters, his sons and daughters, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren. His tone of voice was different and the look in his eye changed. His family was the important thing he wanted to talk about.

I will miss Henry and I will miss his wisdom.

Read more on Henry’s life in his obituary here.