Yesterday I had a new “first” for my company, but it wasn’t a happy one. I had to take down the website of a friend and client who died two months ago.
Elaine Bankey died January 2, 2016, at the age of 68. She had myelofibrosis, a rare blood cancer that is difficult to treat. When she was first diagnosed, they told her she’d live four or five years with the disease. But she proved them wrong and lived with it for 23 years.
The connection between my family and the Bankeys goes back to 2007. Elaine’s daughter, Lori Bankey Balliger, was my son’s teacher and football coach at Mission Middle School in Bellevue. Elaine’s granddaughter, Taylor, was his first girlfriend.
When I got laid off the first time in January 2008, my son came home from school the next day with a message from his teacher. “Mrs. Ballinger wants you to send your resume to school with me so her dad can help you find a job,” he said. When I didn’t do it right away, I got another message a couple of days later: “Mrs. Ballinger wants your resume. Tomorrow.”
And she wasn’t kidding. Her father, Dan Bankey, was vice president of Human Resources at Security National Bank. He spent the next six months looking for a job for me, and I even interviewed for a job at the bank. As it turned out, I ended up starting Catena Creations and my job search was over. I got to meet Dan and Elaine that spring when they came to a track meet where their daughter was coaching and my son was running.
Elaine became a client in October 2011. She and another friend wanted to start a blog called Omaha MPN Resources. They wanted to provide support and encouragement to others who had been diagnosed with the same rare cancers in the MPN group. I created a logo and set up the blog for them. Both women, however, had to deal with serious health issues shortly after it launched.
As my son progressed through middle school and high school, we saw the Bankeys at many school events. Lori’s husband Butch was one of my son’s football coaches. Dan and Elaine attended games to support him and Lori.
Most importantly, Elaine was a mentor and board president of the TeamMates Program at Bellevue East High School. She mentored as many as 10 students at a time in Bellevue and surrounding community schools. She was named Midlands Foundation Volunteer of the Year for her efforts in 2012. It was one of her many accomplishments and contributions to the community.
Because of this, the kids called her “Grandma Bankey” and trusted her as a friend. When my son had his first car accident, Elaine had seen what happened. She stopped and made sure my son was OK, then called me at a client’s office to let me know about the accident. She stayed with him until I got to the scene, then stayed with us until all was taken care of and reported. Elaine was there for both of us throughout those high school years to listen, encourage and share a laugh. We stayed in touch after that through connections on Facebook.
Elaine and the Bankey-Ballinger family have been so supportive of me, my son and my business, and we cherish their friendship. Rest in peace, my friend.