Portland - James A. Banks, Sr., 80, of Hudson, FL died on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 following a hard-fought battle with cancer. The last two months, Jim was in hospice care at the home of his son, Gregory, in Rotonda West, FL.
Jim was born on April 12, 1939 in Portland, ME, and grew up the oldest of four children. Jim attended parochial schools in Portland; Sacred Heart Grammar School (1945 to 1953) and Cheverus High School, (1953 to 1957). Following High School, Jim enlisted in the Air Force where he remained until 1961. Upon departure from the service, he completed one year of college at the University of Maine, Portland before leaving school in December 1963 to start a family.
Jim married Cora J. Richard on December 28, 1963 and eventually settled in Portland, ME to raise their family. In early years, he worked at Boston Shoe Store in Dover, NH and Portland, ME before starting his career in public safety in 1965 with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s department as a dispatcher. He also worked at the U.S. Postal Office in Portland during Christmas in order to buy Christmas gifts for his family. In 1968, Jim started his career in law enforcement with the Maine State Liquor Commission. When the opportunity arose to advance his career into supervision, Jim attended the Criminal Justice Academy in Waterville, ME, graduating in 1974. He continued his formal education, completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Maine, Portland-Gorham (now the University of Southern Maine), graduating in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice. Jim held the rank of Sergeant in the Maine State Bureau of Liquor Enforcement until his retirement in March of 2000.
Jim’s commitment to public service and volunteerism first began with coaching youth baseball at Little League 9 (LL9) in Portland. He coached his son, James Jr’s, farm league team, where they won the LL9 Farm Championships in 1973. Jim went on to coach Little League (Haverty Buick) for 13 years. During this time, Jim first ran for and successfully won a seat on the Portland School Board in 1979. He stayed on the committee until 1984 and then ran, and won, again, in 1990 and served until 2002. During the 17 years on the school committee, Jim served as Chairman during three different times: 1981 to 1982; 1983 to 1984 and again from 1995 to 1996. In addition to these leadership responsibilities Jim had many other Board responsibilities: he created and served on the first Portland High School Building Committee (1983); he served as a member and chair of each sub-committee of the Board, including Finance-Budget, Operations, Athletic, Communications, Personnel, and Curriculum. Jim was also appointed by the School Board to serve on multiple City of Portland committees such as a Member of Deering High Building Committee (1980 to 1983); Member of Portland High Building Committee (1988 to 1990); Member of Middle School Building Committee (1994 to 1996); Member of East End Community/Elementary School Building Committee (2003 to 2006); and finally as a Member of Fred C. Hall (now Rowe Elementary School) Elementary School Building Committee (2013 to 2018).
In addition to Jim’s work on behalf of the City of Portland in his role as a member of the School Board, and along with his work on various city-wide committees in which he was appointed, Jim also served on various other city-wide committees. He served as a member of the committee to build the Portland Ice Arena (1983); served as a member of the Committee to Upgrade Portland High School Baseball Field (Hadlock Field and home to the Sea Dogs) (1983); chair of the committee to install lights on Deering Memorial Field (1984); chair of the committee to restore lights at the Portland High School Stadium (now Fitzpatrick Stadium) (1986) and work to establish the Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament at Portland Exposition Building (1986). As a huge proponent of education and helping to create programs that directly benefit the children of Portland, Jim also served on multiple state-wide boards and committees. He was a member of the Maine State School Board Association (MSBA) as a Director from 1993 to 2002 and served as the Association’s President from October 1996 to 1997. In 2007, Jim was appointed by then-governor John Baldacci to the Maine State Board of Education where he served until 2012, serving under both Democratic and Republican governors. Jim was vice-chairman of this Board in 2010 and ascended to being Chair of the Board in 2011 until he stepped down in 2012.
While Jim worked diligently for the City of Portland, he worked just as diligently in his career as a Maine State employee. Jim was a representative on the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA) from 1972 until the early 1980s. From 1977 to 1979, Jim served as a Director on the MSEA Board. During his time working for the MSEA, he served on the State Board of Trustees to purchase health insurance for State employees. He also served for 15 years on the Income Protection Board where he helped negotiate insurance with UNUM, securing a plan of income protection which stands today with the MSEA.
Jim became an active member in the Portland Kiwanis Club from 1982 until his passing. He served as President from 1988 to 1989. Jim’s involvement with the Portland Club led him to become involved with the New England District Kiwanis. At the District level, Jim coordinated the Emergency Medical Technician training for treating trauma in the young children of Southern Maine (1992 to 1993); became director of the Kiwanis Foundation of New England (1994 to 2000); served as Governor-Elect (1996 to 1997); and then became Governor (1997 to 1998). Jim served as a delegate to 25 International Kiwanis Conventions and as a delegate or alternate to 30 New England Kiwanis Conventions. As both Governor-Elect and Governor, Jim, with his wife, Cora, began a fundraising campaign consisting of 4 auctions annually at Kiwanis conventions to raise funds for their favorite charity, the Kiwanis Foundation of New England for the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Institute at Tuffs Medical Center in Boston. Jim and Cora worked diligently to raise funds for the children.
Over the years, Jim has been recognized for his commitment to public service and volunteerism. He received the Maine State Employees Association “Employee of the Year” (1978); the Robert B. Ganley Award for Distinguished Community Service with special emphasis on children (October 2005); the Portland School Committee Award named for “James A. Banks, Sr” presented on behalf of the Portland School Committee the “Unsung Hero” awarded each Thanksgiving at the annual Portland-Deering Thanksgiving Day Game (since 1996).
A recent recognition came when the Portland City Council unanimously voted on February 3, 2020 to rename the Portland Exposition Building the “James A. Banks, Sr. Exposition Building.” Jim was very humbled and honored. The Expo is very dear to the Banks family.
Jim has been an active member of St. Pius Church and a member of the Knights of Columbus with the honor of Grand Knight. He served on St. Pius Church Council for five years, serving one year as its Chairman. In addition, he served on the St. Patrick’s Finance Committee for two years representing St. Pius as well as serving on the former St. Patrick’s School Board. He was on the St. Pius Board of Directors for 3 years. As a member of the St. Pius Finance Council, he participated in many church fundraisers such as replacing the cement steps of the Community Hall at St. Pius.
To honor his high school, Jim served in multiple positions for Cheverus. He served on the Cheverus alumni council (2015 to 2018) where he was honored to be its vice-president (2015) and president (2016 to 2017). Jim was also one of the Class of ’57 fundraiser designee and worked with other class designees on fundraising for Cheverus alumni. Jim was a proud member of the Cheverus 500 donor club. Prior to passing, Jim was named the recipient of Cheverus’ 2020 MAGIS award for his outstanding community service to the City of Portland, State of Maine, Kiwanis and Cheverus. Jim’s family will receive the award on his behalf in April.
In December 2017, after his first battle with cancer, Jim moved to Heritage Pines in Hudson, FL. There his commitment to public service and volunteerism continued. He became active in the Heritage Pines Veterans Club soon thereafter and was honored in their Veterans Club newsletter in August 2019. In addition, Jim served as the member-at-large on the Regal Pines Village board at Heritage Pines. Jim continued to return to Maine several times a year from Florida where he attended Mass regularly at St. Pius, and Cheverus Class of 1957 Alumni monthly breakfasts and annual Alumni dinners. In addition, Jim spent time with his sister, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren at various family events, including important family traditions such as Christmas Eve and Father’s Day.
In March 2014, following over 50 years of marriage, Jim’s beloved wife, Cora, died. Jim was known to say that one of his greatest privileges in his life was to help raise his four sons with Cora. Jim is also predeceased by his father, Robert S. Banks, Sr., his mother, Catherine I. Banks, and his brothers, Robert S. Banks, Jr. and Eugene D. Banks. He is survived by his sons, James A. Banks, Jr. of Winslow, ME; Gregory R. Banks and husband, David Perry of Rotonda West, FL; Douglas J Banks, Sr. and wife, Sharon Banks, of Naples, ME, and Jeffrey C. Banks of Malden, MA. Jim is also survived by his sister, Catherine I. Harrington of Windham, ME; three granddaughters, Ashley Letourneau and husband, Nick Letourneau of Fairfield, ME; Danielle Spaulding and husband, Fred Spaulding, of Clinton, ME.; Hunter Poulin and husband, Dan Poulin, of Lewiston, ME; as well as by three grandsons, James. A. Banks, III and wife, Stephanie Vigue of Winslow, ME; Robert S. H. Banks and wife, Tiffany Carrigan of Winslow, ME; and Douglas J. Banks, Jr. of Naples, ME. Jim’s large family also extends to eleven great-grandchildren: Taylor and Landon Letourneau; Wyatt, Cooper, and Bryce Spaulding; Ella Vigue, Matthew, Cameron and Aubree Banks; and RaeLeigh Starkey and Robert Banks, Jr.
Relatives and friends are invited to gather and visit with Jim’s family on Friday, February 28, during the hours of 2 to 8 p.m. at A.T. Hutchins Funeral Home, 660 Brighton Avenue, Portland. Jim will be eulogized during a short service at St. Pius X Church 492 Ocean Avenue, Portland, starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 29, 2020, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial to be celebrated at 10 a.m. at St. Pius X Church. Interment will follow at Calvary Cemetery, Broadway in South Portland.
Friends and family are invited to share their memories and offer their condolences by visiting Jim’s online guestbook at www.athutchins.com.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Jim’s memory to the Kiwanis Foundation of New England for the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Institute at Tuffs Medical Center, 800 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111, 617-636-5000.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James A. Banks, Sr., please visit our floral store.