Family, friends mourn loss of Julene Banks

Julene Doris Banks, 1958-2017

The following is an abridged version of the life story of Julene Banks, who passed away on Aug. 20. The story was read at her funeral service.

Julene Doris Banks was born on Dec. 2, 1958, to Inez DaCosta, nee Jackson, and Wilbur DaCosta, who lived in Mt. Pleasant, West Bay, overlooking Uncle Sammy’s Pond.

She grew up in a time when most of island’s men went to sea, leaving mostly women to care for the children. Ladies in surrounding homes provided a network of support for each other. One of these ladies who made a great impact on Julene’s life was neighbor Adelaide “Addie” Ebanks, who was considered by the seven DaCosta children as their next door grandmother. Another was Birdell Jackson, known as “Cousin Birdie,” who was a member of the West Bay Presbyterian Church and who almost singlehandedly built a small Sunday School up the road from Julene’s house.

Julene’s paternal grandmother, Olga DaCosta, was also a great influence on her life, as was her Great-Aunt Dons, who still resides in Tampa, and her paternal aunts Audrey and Kadie.

In 1969, when Julene was 11, her father returned from sea and subsequently purchased an ice-cream business. He moved his family from Mt. Pleasant to out “on the bay,” opposite the Church of God Full Gospel Hall, and expanded the business into the Silver Sands Cafe restaurant.

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Julene graduated from Triple C School in 1975 at the age of 16. While working at her father’s restaurant, she caught the eye of Loxley Banks, who had recently returned from Florida. In 1976, she entered the Miss West Bay Beauty Contest, where Mr. Banks was the MC, and their romance began. They were married on April 10, 1981, in one of the largest weddings West Bay had seen. The famous Radley Gourzong and his Happy Boys were the musicians for the evening, providing lively music on a specially built stage in their yard.

Her first job outside of the family business was at the Caymanian Times newspaper’s advertising department. Although she loved the customer service aspect of this job, she had to quit after becoming ill from the chemicals used in the production of the ads.

Fulfilling her desire to travel, she was a flight attendant with Cayman Airways from 1981 to 1986. While working there, an event occurred which impacted her life down the line. She accompanied Miss Cayman Islands and the then director of tourism to represent Cayman at an international tourism convention in Berlin. When they were given a tour of the Berlin Wall, she became acutely aware of the undercurrent of fear as they could see individuals peeking from behind their curtains. It was at this point that she recognized what a big difference there was between oppression and freedom.

Shortly after this, in March 1986, she left Cayman Airways to study at the Truman Bodden Law School. She served as an articled clerk in the Grand Court and was admitted to practice as an attorney-at-law in the Cayman Islands in 1991. Between 1991 and 1997, she was Crown counsel in the Attorney General’s Chambers and assisted in developing the Children Law, (1995). She contributed to the Monetary Authority Law and was a member of the Authority’s board for years. In 1996, she helped set up the National Drug Council, on which she served as chairman for three years, and assisted to create and implement the National Drugs Council Law.

In 1995, she attended a three-month International Development Law Organization course in Rome. She shared countless times that this was a powerful experience for her as there were students attending from all religions, with the majority being Muslim, and the theological discussions that took place after hours were as stimulating as the required course work. After this, she recommitted her life to Christ and joined the John Gray Memorial Church, where she decided to help Cayman’s youth by working with them through the church.

In 1997, she became pregnant after 16 years of marriage and took a leave of absence from government. Unfortunately, their daughter, Sarah, was stillborn. On recovering from this personal loss, she chose not to return to government and next worked for a short time in the Council Office of the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, as council secretary. She then worked for a short time in the Monetary Authority but left to take up the full-time caregiving of her parents.

Throughout her membership in the John Gray United Church, she served as elder, Sunday school teacher, vacation Bible school teacher, youth group leader, founder of the Christian Nurture Group (teens), Women’s Fellowship member, Seniors’ Fellowship Committee member, and choir member. She also helped other women cope with pre-natal loss through the Our Angels Foundation.

She was a lifetime member of the National Trust and a member of the West Bay District Committee. She sat on the steering committee of Caribbean Haven and the National Committee against Domestic Abuse from 2000 to 2003. More recently, she was a member of the Constitutional Commission for two years.

In recognition of her service in each of the capacities she served, she was awarded the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour in 2010.

She was a founding and active member of the Cayman Islands Mental Health Commission, as well as one of is legal consultants. She was passionate about helping to improve mental health care in Cayman, after the death of her beloved nephew Alex in 2010, whom she referred to as a kindred spirit.

Julene believed that charity began at home and created a loving home environment with Loxley, which created a happy gathering place for family, co-workers and many others. She also loved to travel and the couple enjoyed trips to Europe, the Fiji Islands, Barbados, many areas of the USA, including Hawaii.

Earlier this year,the couple celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary with family and friends.

Although Julene did not raise a biological child, several young people entered her and Loxley’s lives, the chief one being Casandra Hibbert-Morris. Julene brought her into their home and treated her as if she were her own from the time she was 17.

Twenty months ago, Julene recognized that she was not in great health and pursued medical assistance locally and overseas. Even with various treatments, her condition deteriorated and she succumbed to cancer at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.

Her faith was ever steadfast and even through her suffering, it never wavered. Her family is so grateful that she was able to converse with visitors until she left the hospital on Saturday and that she was able to once more place her toes in the sand of Grand Cayman and look out to the sea that was so dear to her.

She was preceded in death by parents Wilbur and Inez DaCosta, daughter Sarah, aunts Kadie and Audrey, and nephew Alex. She leaves to mourn her passing: husband Loxley Banks and his four sisters, Julia, Eileen, Sherilyn and Lona, and their families; four brothers, Willie, Wayne, Waide and Woody, and their families; two sisters, Jane Panton and Jewel Studenhofft and their families; “adopted” daughter Casandra Hibbert-Morris; and two god-daughters, Ruth Myles and Victoria King; the many members of the DaCosta and Banks families; and many friends across the Cayman Islands and the world who thought of Julene as that very special person in their lives.

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