Molly Banister

Community influencer, volunteer

Molly Banister was born Madeleine Elizabeth Manning on August 21, 1925, in Newmarket, Ontario. She grew up in the town of Kenora, where her father worked as a school principal. In 1948, she graduated from the Wellesley Hospital School of Nursing. Molly began her new career at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children. She married Robert Banister on September 11, 1948. Robert (otherwise known as Bob) was originally from Alberta and was studying optometry at the University of Toronto. A year later, the couple decided to move back to Red Deer – which was Robert’s hometown. Once settled, Robert opened his own optometry clinic while Molly continued with her nursing career. Bob and Molly had three daughters – Joan, Madeleine, and Barbara.

It did not take long for Molly and Robert to become involved with their community. Molly became active with Gaetz United Church, serving as a member of the Board of Stewards from 1962-1965. She was President of one of the local branches of the U.C.W. (United Church Women) and a member of the manse committee. Molly and Bob were also involved with the Alberta Council for Crippled Children.

In 1969, the couple helped organize the first Red Deer International Folk Festival, in which Molly served as the chair for the Ethic Arts & Crafts section for many years.

It was not just Molly and her husband who became involved in community activities – Madeleine and Barbara joined Brownies and went on to become Girl Guides. Madeleine earned her Gold Cord, which was the highest achievement that could be acquired at the time (this was later replaced with the Canada Cord in 1971). Alongside her daughters, Molly was also involved with the Girl Guide Movement and was a Guide Commissioner. When she would test the girls for their Proficiency Badges (a badge awarded for achieving a new knowledge or skill), Molly would always pass them. Her reasoning was because “it was much more important that they tried rather than how successful the result.”

“it was much more important that they tried rather than how successful the result.”

“you should not ‘set’ a table. You should ‘dress’ a table – so your guests feel special.”

Molly also had a passion for music design and literature, which she encouraged in her daughters. There were times that she would wake her children up way past their bedtimes so they could come and ‘appreciate’ Liberace and the Beatles when they were airing on the Ed Sullivan show. She loved to entertain and was always teaching her daughters that “you should not ‘set’ a table. You should ‘dress’ a table – so your guests feel special.”

“When I think of my mom the first thing that comes to mind is eloquence and eloquent. She had a grace and beauty about her I have yet to see in many others. She was generous with her kindness and compassion, traits she demonstrated consistently. Mom had a knack for making people feel special. As a little kid, I can remember always coming home from school to her beautiful smile and a big hug. She would make you feel you had just made her day even when she was sick. This does not mean she was “soft” though! She was always supportive but also directive and she could flash you a look in an instance that made her feelings clear. She would make you your favorite meals just because, but if apple crisp was for dessert, you knew you had to get through one of your non-favourites first!”

– Madeleine Carson, Molly’s Daughter

Molly Banister played an instrumental role in helping Red Deer establish its museum. As chair of the fundraising drive, she was able to bring in $206,000 (in five months) that went into the museum’s building. Molly was also the first chair of the Waskasoo Museum Foundation, which was established with the left-over donation funds. In 1980, Molly received a citation from the American Association of State and Local History for her role in helping create the Red Deer Museum.

In April 1977, Molly discovered she had cancer and underwent her first surgery and series of radiation and chemotherapy. Despite her illness, Molly stayed active and positive. She helped found a chapter of CanSurmount, which was a support group for cancer patients and their families. She was the coordinator from 1981-1983. Her daughter, Barbara, remembers how Molly would make protein smoothies and go deliver them to the homes of cancer patients who were struggling to eat.

Molly would battle with cancer for the next seven years until her passing on June 7, 1984.

For all her hard work and dedication, Molly was presented with many awards throughout her life. In 1977, she was named Woman of the Year by the Beta Sigma Phi Society (a non-academic sorority with members in chapters around the world). This was followed by her being named Red Deer Citizen of the Year by the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce in 1978. In 1983, Molly received the Heritage Nursing Award from the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses. Two days before she passed, on June 5, she was named to the Order of Canada (the country’s highest honor). On October 3, 1984, at the Government House in Ottawa, Molly’s husband and daughter, Joan, accepted the award on her behalf. In recognition of her many achievements and appreciation of her years of volunteer work, Red Deer’s City Council renamed 28th Street to Molly Banister Drive in February 1986.

Despite all these awards and recognitions, what Molly is remembered most for is her compassion and kind heart. She was modest and humble – stating that these achievements were done because of a team effort.

When reminiscing about her mother, Barbara says she that
“Mom was always the most beautiful, understanding lady I have known.”

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