Nancy J. Bannister
June 24, 1942 - October 5, 2006
Nancy Joyce Bannister served as director of the NPM Western Office in Portland, Oregon, and as NPM’s chief liaison with the music industry for twenty-six years, but most NPM members knew her as the enthusiastic heart of our convention exhibit halls. She was attentive to every person who approached her and always responded generously and cheerfully. Nancy’s presence in NPM convention halls was enriched by her ability to bring to that work her life as sister, believer, pastoral musician, wife, mother, and loving companion.
Nancy’s journey began in Gadsden, Alabama, on June 24, 1942. Raised by a musical family in the Baptist tradition, she began a pilgrimage toward the Roman Catholic Church when she was a teenager. When she was nineteen, Nancy gave her sister Cora Jean a bible with an inscription that revealed Nancy’s own dedication to the Word of God and its key revelation: “Loving hands must handle this book. Loving eyes must read it. And loving hearts must understand what it has to say. Love is the most important force known to humans, and the one force that contains all others and can be neither created nor destroyed.”
Her journey as wife, mother of five daughters, and music minster took her to Portland, Oregon, in the 1970’s. There she ministered in several Catholic churches and became the first woman to serve as chair of the Music Commission for the Archdiocese of Portland. She also became involved with the fledgling National Association of Pastoral Musicians.
She joined the NPM national staff in 1980. In that one year, she presented a workshop on children’s choirs at the Regional Convention in Olympia, Washington (June 12-14), offered a workshop – in her clown persona, Rainbo – at the NPM Summer Institute in Los Angeles, joined the national staff as advertising director and head of the NPM Western Office, and had an article in the October-November issue of Pastoral Music.
Particularly because of her work with the music industry, Nancy became an invaluable resource as part of the team that met with local committees to design the program for conventions. She also worked with publishers to provide library resources at NPM summer institutes, and her longtime work with children’s choirs made her the natural choice to help plan the NPM Children’s Choir Festivals that began as part of a larger choral festival at the 1993 Nation Convention in St. Louis, Missouri.
In the summer of 2006, Nancy felt unusually tired and sick but attributed those feelings to the duty of serving at three exhibit halls for the regional conventions while returning regularly to Alabama to care for her sister Cora, who had been diagnosed with cancer. On her return to Portland, Nancy went to her own physician, and tests revealed that she herself was suffering from ovarian cancer. She endured a ten-hour surgery on September 12 and expected to spend the next several days in intensive care, to be followed by recovery time at home and chemotherapy. But complications following the surgery weakened her and, despite occasional bright moments, she continued to lose ground. On Thursday, October 5, with her family, friends, daughters (some connected by telephone), and Father Virgil Funk present, Nancy died while the gathered community sang the Easter Alleluia.
Members of Nancy’s family, the NPM staff, and friends from the music industry gathered in Portland on October 14 and 15 with the Journey and Koinonia Community to celebrate Nancy’s funeral, following instructions and suggestions that she had written down four years before.
Tribute prepared by NPM staff, printed in Pastoral Music, December–January 2007, pg. 7. Reprinted with permission.