A Legacy of Giving - Don and JoAnn Banks


It was 1952 during the Korean War, when 19 year old Don Banks headed off to the Far East as a Machinist Mate, aboard the USS Bryce Canyon, a destroyer tender. Don did not have the resources to go to college after graduating high school, but he knew if he went to the Navy and was able to return safely, he would have access to the G.I. Bill. Don had already endured tough times growing up during the depression with a troubled home life. Then just short of a year in the navy Don was faced with an experience that left an indelible imprint on his life.

The USS Barton, had been seriously damaged by a mine off the coast of Korea. The explosion left a 40 x 40 foot hole in the forward boiler room of the ship, killing all five sailors assigned to the area. Don and his small crew of machinists were assigned the task of cleaning up the wreckage and taking apart, drying out and preserving all of the boiler room equipment. Don served two more tours to the Far East before being honorably discharged from the Navy in June of 1955.

When Don returned to Colorado he remembered his high school shop teacher and mentor Werner Schneider, and he was inspired to give back just as Mr. Schneider had . He enrolled in Colorado State University's Industrial Sciences Program, graduated in 1959, and went onto a career in education. Don began to heal from old wounds through his heart filled passion for teaching woodshop and mentoring students.

He taught at Lesher Jr. High School in Fort Collins, Colorado from 1960-1987. Don says "I was able to teach a lot of life skills, about success and failure and help kids face the realities of life. I just wanted them to reach their potential." When he would offer advice, whether personal or school related, the students would ask, "Why did you do that, Mr. Banks?" It was not unusual for him to say, "Because I love you, that's all you need to know."

Don's passion for education and helping students continues today. His recent planned gift comes in the form of a scholarship endowment, reserved for combat veterans. Don says, "If you think about it, veterans may be four years behind by the time they start college, but they are way ahead in life experiences which makes them better students, and better workers."