Monday, April 6, 2009
Harry F. and Myrtle Banks
This article was transcribed with permission from pages 135-136 of Appanoose County, Iowa (1986) compiled by the Appanoose County Historical Society, Centerville, Iowa.
Harry F. Banks was born November 30, 1896 in Appanoose County, Centerville, Iowa, and died February 9, 1984 in Detroit, Michigan. His father, Frank T. Banks, born in 1871 and died in 1938, was a substantial landowner there and one of eight children of Wesley Johnson Banks who was born in 1875 (sic) and died in 1913, coming to Appanoose County with his wife, Nancy Wells Talbott, in 1854. Harry's mother, Lottie D. Streepy, born in 1876 and died in 1956, was the daughter of Isaac Freeland Streepy and Mary Jane Reynolds, highly regarded residents of Appanoose County and life-long members of the Methodist Church. Harry's grandfather, Wesley Johnson Banks, a member of "Iowa Society of the Sons of the American Revolution" died and buried in Oakland Cemetery, Centerville, where special services honoring him were held May 23, 1981. A Democrat, he believed in the pure and simple Jeffersonian principles and not going off after false gods of latter-day democracy. Of the 46 known Banks descendants, great-grandson Raymond Hughes wtill lives on the Frank Banks' farm southwest of Centerville, where Harry, an only child, grew up to Manhood, and where his parents lived, died and also were buried in Oakland Cemetery. The Banks family were of fighting stock like great-grandfather William Banks, a Revolutionary War hero who was born in 1762 and died in 1839.
Harry Banks, a 1916 graduate of Centerville High School, class president, football and baseball athlete, also possessed a fighting spirit, studying electrical engineering, accounting, salesmanship and business management at Alexander Hamilton Institute, and after a year in retail selling, enlisted and served in World War I as instructor in Army aviation and also during World War II managed a Shell plant in Janesville,k Wisconsin. Returning from Army service in 1919, Harry, in partnership with his father in the grain, livestock and farming business until 1921, started his career in automotive sales which began at a General Motors dealership in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as retail salesman. Two years later, he joined G. M. Corporation as a district representative for Buick in the Chicago zone, and in 1932, was appointed as Buick/Oldsmobile/Pontiac sales representative in Milwaukee, a post he held until 1945 when he was transferred to Detroit as a Zone manager there.
Harry Banks was married October 13, 1945 to Myrtle D. Paap, daughter of the Reverend and Mrs. August H. Paap, at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Farmington, Jefferson County, Wisconsin, where Myrtle's father was the pastor.
After coming to Detroit as a zone manager, Harry Banks was appointed assistant sales manager for Oldsmobile and transferred to the Lansing office until 1949, subsequently taking important positions in Detroit and Memphis, becoming regional manager in 1952, a Detroit assignment he held until his retirement in 1961. A distinguished automotive career spanning 35 years with General Motors brought satisfaction in the knowledge of selecting and training men and then seeing them in responsible positions afterward.
In 1962, Harry Banks managed a leasing business for an Oldsmobile dealership, and having a genuine concern for the customer and a positive attitude which favorably affected sales, his programs devised and implemented so successfully over 30 years nationwide, he became an example of how well those plans and thoughts on living in general worked.
"For success, attitude is equally as important as ability."
"Lack of will power and drive cause more failures than lack of ability and intelligence."
If those sayings sound familiar, you might have read them in Dr. Joyce Brothers' "How to Succeed in the People Business," or seen them in Forbes magazine, next to quotes by Shakespeare, Andrew Carnegie and Socrates. Harry and his wife, Myrtle, were members of Indian Village Lutheran Church, because they felt that church work and attendance cultivates a feeling of responsibility and love for one another and showing faith by actions. Harry was also a 50-year member of Iowa Elks Lodge and the patriotic Freemasons, and he believed in creating peace forces instead of armed forces.
Always concerned for the safety of G.M. personnel in his charge, Harry kept an equally watchful eye on the security of his home, Whittier Towers. A resident for 38 years, Harry improved the Whittier's grounds, walk railings and made other safety suggestions. He even nurtured a flock of pheasants in the Whittier Park, to the delight of many of his fellow residents. A man of ideas and action, a dear friend, a beloved husband and one of the kindest and gentlest topflight managers ever connected with the auto industry, Harry Banks is being missed as he could not rally from injuries which he suffered after a fall early this year, when he died February 9, 1984, at the age of 87.