HARWOOD ALEXANDER "BILL" BANNISTER (1914 – 2010)
As a young child, his Father brought the family back to the United States where they lived briefly in Illinois and Utah before settling in Tacoma, Washington. His Father traveled the Vaudeville Circuit, with such notables as Al Jolson, and performed as the magician, "The Great Bannister". Wanting to include his children in his act, young Harwood performed as the ventriloquist "Little Alexander and Tommy". When interviewed by the press as to what "Little Alexander" would do with his earnings he replied, "I am saving to be a Doctor or maybe a Lawyer." Much later, Mr. Bannister's children, nieces and nephews enjoyed many years of magic shows and ventriloquizing performances on the Library stage of the family residence on South Tenth in Mount Vernon, Washington.
Mr. Bannister graduated from Stadium High School in Tacoma, Washington in 1932 earning top academic honors as well as the title "Thespian of The Year". Upon graduation, he enrolled in the College of Puget Sound and graduated with a degree in Political Science. Following graduation he became a Professor of Political Science at his Alma Mater, which later became the University of Puget Sound. He received his Bachelors of Law, LLB, from the University of Washington School of Law graduating with the class of 1940. Following Law School, he was the Assistant State Law Librarian in Olympia, Washington. From 1942 1946 he was a member of the Seattle Law firm, Falknor, Emory and Howe which later became Davis, Wright, Tremaine. While in Law School, he was introduced to an upper class Law student, Nancy Billingsley. He immediately discovered his intellectual equal and soul mate. Harwood Bannister and Nancy Billingsley were married in 1941.
With the onset of WWII, he enlisted in the armed forces as a member of the 85th Regiment of the Tenth Mountain Division. Known as the "Elite Ski Troops" he trained on Mt. Rainer, Camp Hale Colorado and the Aleutian Islands before deployment to the Po Valley Region of Italy.
Upon his return from WWII while stalled in Seattle traffic, Mr. and Mrs. Bannister contemplated a more simple life and moved to Mount Vernon, Washington. Mr. Bannister established his Law practice in Mount Vernon in 1946. In an attempt for name recognition, local Attorney Alfred McBee advised him to run for Prosecuting Attorney. Mr. McBee warned him, "You will never win as your opponent is Reuben Younquist. Reuben's related to all of Skagit County. You will not get the votes but they will remember your name." Mr. Bannister's bid for Prosecuting Attorney was unsuccessful however, his quest for recognition was.
In the 1960s, he established the Law Firm of Bannister, Bruhn and Luvera in which his wife Nancy, Earl F. Angevine and John D. Leinen were associate members. He often said his quintessential Law Firm would consist of three Attorneys, ten years apart in age, with high ethical standards. The roles to be filled would be a Managing Partner, a Rainmaker and a good Litigator. He found his team in Stanley K. Bruhn and Paul N. Luvera Jr. In later years, he formed Partnerships with John R. Cuningham, Brian E. Clark, Paul W. Taylor and Jack R. Wallace.
Mr. Bannister served as a Washington State Bar Examiner for five years. He was a member of the Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors and a past President of the Skagit County Bar Association. In 1955 while Mr. Bannister was trying a case in San Francisco, he was admitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In 1964, Mr. Bannister flew to Washington D.C. where he was sworn in to practice law in front of the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Bannister was an avid snow skier and mountaineer. He returned often to ski the Italian Alps and ascended Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams at the young age of fifty. With his love for snow skiing he dreamed of building a ski chalet in the mountains. Finding the price of mountain property too costly, he found a nice waterfront lot at a reasonable price. Over the next few years, Mr. and Mrs. Bannister spent their weekends clearing the land and building their "Ski Chalet" on the Bay. According to Mrs. Bannister's ledger entries, the project was on time and under budget. Thanks to his superior craftsmanship, the "Chalet" stands to this day. Structurally, stout and sound.
In later retirement, Mr. and Mrs. Bannister spent a weekend at their house on the bay and did not leave for the following ten years. He was a gracious steward of the surrounding land and shoreline. He was frequently spotted, maneuvering his John Deere to the top of the hill, where he would greet the mail carrier and retrieve the daily newspapers. Settling in for the evening, from his spectacular westerly view, he would admire the sunset over Orcas Island.
He spent many years cruising the San Juan Islands and Strait of Georgia on his beloved houseboat the "Cricket". During impromptu explorations of the uninhabited San Juans, to avoid beaching the Cricket, he often used his children as radar. An excursion was never complete without a cruise past Speiden Island with the hope of sighting a wild animal or two.
Throughout the years, Mr. and Mrs. Bannister traveled the world. Humorous travel log entries detail Mongolian Yurt camping, camel racing in Luxor and bartering a stick of Wrigley's gum with a Rain Forrest Chief. His most memorable voyage being his South America trip through the Panama Canal on board "The Orange Juice Ship". Over the next thirty days, he nearly mastered the Spanish and Portuguese languages taught by his Brazilian shipmates.
Mr. Bannister often said, "There was always one more world to discover, another person to know, and something interesting to learn. Yet I am concerned, I may run out of time."
Stay active in peace our dear friend. Discover new worlds. Enlist acquaintances new and old. Your quest for knowledge is an admirable gift.
Mr. Bannister was preceded in death by his parents, his wife of sixty-seven years Nancy Billingsley Bannister. Sisters Elizabeth Schumacher and Erma Dobson. Brother Leroy Bannister.
Mr. Bannister is survived by his children, Harwood Austin Bannister, James Jeffery Bannister and wife Patti, Katherine Ann Bannister Sanders and husband Wayne. Grandchildren, Noah Bannister, Breanne Bannister (Mother Michelle Bannister) and Austin Bannister (Mother Toni Bannister). Step-grandchildren Amanda Yocum and Briana Yocum. Numerous nieces, nephews and cousins throughout the United States and Canada.
Per Mr. Bannister's request, services will not be held.
Memorials may be made to a favorite organization or charity.
The Bannister family wishes to extend their sincere gratitude to the Creekside Retirement Assisted Living Staff and Skagit County Hospice for their kind and professional care.