On April 9, 2020 Josephine Helen Speer Banks left this earthly life to begin new life in her Heavenly home. She was blessed to live in good health for most of her 99 years and transitioned at home in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was born on March 27, 1921 in Atlanta, Georgia to parents, Joseph Charles Speer and Fleta Annie McNeil. From this union were four older siblings, Joseph Eugene, William Victor, James Daniel and Fleta Mae.
Josephine attended elementary and high school in Jamaica (Queens), New York. After graduation, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Morris Brown College, earning a degree in Business Administration in 1951. While there, she joined the Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, The New York Club, and met her future husband, the late Joseph Lefeldren Banks. They were married July 4, 1942. Of this union were three daughters and one son; Sheilah, Pamela Jo (deceased), Sonya and Joseph, Jr.
Prior to beginning her professional career in 1958 as an educator, Josephine was a homemaker. Her children will attest that she was the very best. Those years illuminated one of her most admirable qualities: insisting on excellence, character and doing a job to the best of your ability.
Mrs. Banks loved teaching. It was her gift. She often said that she knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a teacher. She told of spending hours organizing dolls and friends into a class to “play school.” From 1958 to 1983 she worked for the Chicago Board of Education, first as a classroom teacher from 1958 to 1971 and then continued as a Reading Resource Teacher until 1974. During that time, she earned a master’s degree in Education from the University of Chicago. In 1974 Josephine was appointed to the position of District Instructional Coordinator. Between 1976 and 1980, she authored three educational publications. Affiliations included the Pi Lambda Theta Honor and Professional Association in Education and the National Council of Negro Women. Mrs. Banks retired from the Chicago Board of Education in 1983.
Following retirement, Mrs. Banks moved to Charlotte, N.C. where, for the next 37 years, she became an active participant in her community, Hyde Park Estates, and her church, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. She spent personal time gardening, reading, traveling with family and friends and sitting on her enclosed porch, “having church,” enjoying the majesty of nature. Josephine served as President of Friendship Senior Citizen Advisory Council, was a valued contributor to Bible Study and Book Club groups and was celebrated as a Diamond of Friendship on August 15, 2010.
In a life well-lived, many experiences leave an impression. One of the things in Josephine’s life that she said left a life-time impression on her was how, as a child, she loved going to Sunday School and church to hear the Word of the Lord. It was so gratifying that she often went by herself even if an adult couldn’t go along since it was in walking distance of her home. Throughout her 99 years, Mrs. Banks often vividly recounted her baptism at age 8 at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, N.Y. and how she walked down the aisle by herself, so small that she had to be lifted up to the baptismal pool to be baptized by the pastor, Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr. who had poured water from the Jordan River into the pool. As an adult, she realized that at an early age her compass for life had been set and all she had to do was follow it. Throughout life, her faith was her guiding principle. As a faithful servant of the Lord, her church affiliations were the following:
Abyssinian Baptist Church, N.Y., N.Y. 1928 (baptized)
Amity Baptist Church, Jamaica, N.Y. 1932-1941
Wheat Street Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA. 1942-1951
Antioch Baptist Church, Chicago, Ill
Friendship Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C. 1984
Friend and supporter of Cedar Grove Presbyterian Church, Concord N.C. since 1976, the historical church home of the Banks family for five generations.
Josephine S. Banks’ legacy will be the countless teachers, students and others that she inspired to be their best who have gone on to inspire many others. Beautiful of countenance, grace, spirit, wit and intelligence, she will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved her.
Left behind to mourn her passing and celebrate her life are: two daughters Sheilah Banks Bowser and husband Charles of Atlanta, GA; Sonya Banks Amos-White of Charlotte, NC; and one son Joseph L. Banks, Jr., and wife Debrona of Huntersville, NC. Eight grandchildren: Barry and Stephanie Bowser of Atlanta, GA; Bruce Bowser of Bronx, NY; Angela Amos of Charlotte, NC; Joslyn Banks Phillips Washington and husband Eric of Gary, IN; Joseph L. Banks, III of Dallas, TX; Joelle and Jo’Onna Banks of Huntersville, NC. Two great-grandchildren; Surenity Phillips of Gary, IN and Joseph Johnathon Banks of Dallas, TX. Niece JoAnn Speer Martin and husband Garnel of O’Fallon, IL, along with a host of other relatives and friends. And her beloved pet and “best friend” Fluffy Baby Banks.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, there will be no funeral. However, a memorial service will be announced and held at a later time.
Josephine will be laid to rest in a graveside service by her immediate family on April 15, 2020 at the Cedar Grove Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Huntersville, Concord, North Carolina.
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