The irrepressible Janet Banks

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Andy Sauer

When you write about the town you live in, you’re bound to get a few reactions.

One Sunday at church, one reader, Janet Banks, made a beeline for me and with a stern face, the kind a teacher might make if you were caught in class red-handed, said to me, “Andy, I read your article in the Observer the other day.”

“Oh, you did?” I braced myself. “What did you think?”

“Well,” she paused, tightening her expression, “can I just say that…” And, pausing for dramatic effect, her expression broke into an enormous smile. “… I just loved it!” And, she proceeded to tell me why.

You know, it could’ve easily gone the other way. She’s taken the same approach other times, and there was no smile at the end, just an intense expectation of an explanation.

But, that was Janet — heaping praise when credit was due and calling you out when she felt you needed it.

Janet passed away in September after a brief battle with cancer. She was 82.

Outspoken and irrepressible, Janet was the embodiment of one who thought globally and acted locally. She was active in dozens of Suffield organizations – The Friends of Hilltop Farm, the Girl Scouts, countless committees at First Church of Christ, just to name a few. If you are involved in anything in this town, chances are you met her, and if you did, you never forgot her.

There’s a cliché parroted in business circles: Everyone is replaceable. As with so much “conventional” wisdom, there are a lot of holes in that blanket statement.

I don’t believe Suffield will have someone the likes of Janet Banks ever again. Her consummate devotion to community was a throwback to a bygone era, yet she possessed as much energy as a millennial on a double cappuccino. She worked hard and laughed harder. She could organize and lead, and had the courage to speak up when so many would be, and were, content to remain silent.

Some people are simply irreplaceable. But, as I bemoan that reality, I can hear Janet taking me to task for not taking charge, as she did so many times in the 15 years I knew her.

My response then, as it is today, is that a lot of people just don’t have the heart, energy or time to be the change they want to see – to be someone like her. But, we do our best when and where we can.

Maybe, if more of us do the same, we can fill Janet’s very large Suffield shoes.

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