Thank you, 18th Street. And to the Holy Redeemer Church and Notre Dame High School (class of 1954) communities. You raised a winner – Bill Banchy. Then you sent him to the Navy, then to us on Tallberry Drive, outside Cincinnati. And now, Tallberry Drive is ripped apart. Not by road crews, but by the too-soon death in May of yours and our Bill Banchy.
Many of us on in our neighborhood considered Bill a buddy, and a very special one at that. Many of the kids thought of him as an extra grandpa. You just felt close to Bill, starting from the very moment you met him.
Bill “friended” a lot, before “friending” meant something you did on Facebook. He “friended” when it meant sitting out front on a warm evening, chatting up anyone who walked by, inviting them to stop a moment and enjoy a beer with him. When it meant walking toward home, sweaty after his four-mile run, so he could say hello to anyone who was out or start your lawnmower if you couldn’t get the dang thing to start yourself.
Everyone in our neighborhood has a story about how Bill touched his or her life. Mine begins on a spring weekend morning. Yes, it was the lawnmower. My first one, in my first house. I don’t remember Bill’s being sweaty, so it must have been at the beginning of a run. He trotted over, and in the most entertaining way tackled my lawnmower. He diagnosed the problem as the spark plug (a lawnmower has a spark plug?) and headed back home to get one. A few minutes later, my lawnmower was running and so was Bill. Motorists for years saw him jogging up the main road and back to our street. On Easter, he’d run with rabbit ears and a carrot backpack. The “Easter Runny,” he called himself, to give us a laugh at his expense.
When I began commuting downtown on a bus, I found Bill at my bus stop. We, and others on the bus, enjoyed conversation and laughs during many a commute. An otherwise boring ride to work turned into a joy, with Bill there.
One day, Bill told me why he took a later bus home on Tuesdays; he was reading newspapers on-air at Radio Reading Services for the blind. Bill convinced me to do the same, and I then took a later bus home Wednesdays. A whiz-bang typist, Bill also donated his expertise to the telephone relay service that captioned phone calls for the deaf.
Local newspaper readers knew Bill for years as the guy writing insightful editorials and letters to the editor from the conservative point of view. A number of readers entered into correspondence with him in response to his writings. These started decades ago, with letters exchanged on paper, in envelopes, with stamps. They moved to email during the electronic age. Bill cherished those pen pal relationships and the opportunity to exchange ideas.
Bill always had something to say and always wanted to hear what others had to say. He thought and wrote a lot, about a lot of things – politics, religion, neighborhood issues, existence. He loved dialogue. He loved people. He loved life.
The most pleasant, kind person you’d ever meet. Thank you, Portsmouth, for this gift. Bill, we miss you, buddy.
Jan Sherbin is a neighbor of the Cincinnati Banchy family.