Cayman loses community advocate Bev Banks

The story of Beverly Adma Banks’s life was one of love – love for her community and her fellow man.

An advocate for women, the disadvantaged and the sick, Banks touched and changed many lives in Cayman and across the Caribbean.

Born 10 Feb. 1940 in Jamaica to Caymanian and Jamaican parents, Banks passed away on 1 June at her West Bay home following a battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Even through her illness, Banks continued to advocate for others, and was instrumental in establishing Cayman’s ALS Foundation.

“There are few people in our lives who will intrinsically weave their lives into yours on various stages and levels as Mrs. Bev has done for so many people she has touched. As a visionary, compassionate and influential leader in our community, she had a vision to start a foundation to help persons living with ALS in our beautiful islands,” said foundation director Adonza Harrison.

“She spent hours with us even though she’d get tired, sharing pertinent info and prayed we would find the right persons and support for this daunting challenge. With the greatest inspiration, ALS Cayman is committed to honouring her vision, by increasing awareness of ALS in the Cayman Islands, and by providing support for those affected by this life-changing condition.”

The ALS Foundation is just one piece of Banks’s legacy. Sister Debbie McTaggart said Banks inspired many to continue fighting for a better society and to carry on the work that she began.

Beverly Banks

Banks was also a champion for women and supporter of the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, a provider of services and shelter to victims of domestic violence.

“The fight against domestic violence was a cause which Ms. Bev was involved with for a number of years. She was an integral part of the National Steering Committee between 2000 and 2003 that was instrumental in creating the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre,” according to a statement from the organisation.

“She was a hard-working and very vocal member of the board and was always emphatic that there needed to be a similar shelter for men. Her passion for helping people was evident in all that she was as a person. Ms. Bev served on the board until May 2009. Her spirit of volunteerism didn’t end with the Crisis Centre but propelled her to give of her time and effort to other equally worthy causes.”

As a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club, her outspoken nature made her an important source of guidance, said friend Annie Multon. Through the organisation, she helped bring the Silent Witness March to Cayman and advocate for survivors of domestic violence.

“Bev was a calm, serene and gentle person who put into action her better impulses, straightforward and unafraid. She did it like she thought it had to be done; no second guessing with Bev. That was the Bev I knew and appreciated. You knew where you stood with her,” Multon said.

At Cayman Islands Hospital, she advocated for both patients and staff. A Health Services Authority tribute to her said she developed the hospital’s first customer service training programme, and continued the initiative on a voluntary basis. She also pushed for the creation of quiet rooms at the hospital, ensuring patients and families would have a private space for consultations.

“The HSA has lost a true champion, a visionary and a friend. Her legacy will always live on and she will never be forgotten,” an HSA statement reads.

Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, Banks lived outside of Cayman. In Jamaica, she owned and operated a photo studio, record shop and restaurant, among other ventures. Later, she would move to the Dominican Republic where she took up a teaching post at the Instituto Cultural Dominico Americano. In her time there, she helped double the size of the institute’s teaching staff.

Her return to Cayman in 1980 would put her on the path to reunite with the love of her life, Dale Banks.

He recalled first meeting Beverly in 1954, when she was playing with a group of other young people. She stood out from the crowd.

The two would continue run into each other on other occasions over the years.

“The next time I saw her, her mother introduced me to her. Her mother worked in an ice-cream parlour in George Town and I went to get some ice cream and Bev was in there. So her mother introduced me. That night, a group of us fellas were having a dance in West Bay,” Dale Banks said.

“I invited Ms. Florence – that was Bev’s mother – and Bev to come to the dance. I asked her to dance.”

It would not be until 1984, however, that the two would realise their great love story. At that time, Dale Banks had retired from the Air Force and returned to Cayman. Beverly was working at Motor and General as an underwriter.

“Her mother brought us together the first time. My mother brought us back together,” Dale Banks said.

“I don’t think we even needed to talk about ‘Are we going to get married?’ because that was taken for granted. I was divorced, and she was divorced, and everything just fell into place. Then, the next year, we were married.”

He recalled her passion setting up Cayman Against Substance Abuse after a friend lost her son in a drunk driving accident. When Banks saw something that was not right, she tackled it. And she did not hesitate in sharing her insight with others.

“I used to tell her, there’s an old saying about tact. Diplomacy is the ability to call a man an SOB and have him thank you for it. That was Bev. She could chew me out better than any first sergeant I ever worked for in the Air Force without hurting me. She just had a way of reasoning things out,” Dale Banks said, adding that there will never be another woman like his wife of 34 years.

“I don’t think anybody knew Bev that didn’t like her or love her. She made friends everywhere.”

A member of the Baha’i faith, she embraced the belief that service to humanity is service to God.

A statement from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Jamaica read, “We saw this in her passion for her beloved Cayman Islands and her desire to contribute to its progress and the welfare of its citizens. We saw it in her work to fight domestic abuse and substance abuse, her concern about the delivery of efficient and caring health services, her commitment to the empowerment of women, and lastly in her generosity and everyday acts of kindness, random and otherwise.”

Banks is survived by sons Derek, Juan, Roberto and Felipe, and daughters Maria and Deanna, and an extensive extended family.

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