Any remaining mysteries in my life have now gone to the grave. Sadly, I never got to meet either of my bio-parents, whose brief interactions brought me into the world 72 years ago (1951). I do feel a sense of loss, but it’s not like I have any memories. Cecil Banister was the father and I’ve been in the creek-side, log cabin home that he built in Scipio, Indiana. I’ve met his wife, daughters, and two grandchildren. They were responsive to my DNA results and have become part of my family. However, on Edna’s side my letters and texts have gone unacknowledged. I could probably go to the funeral and meet them all, but it was apparently not what she wanted. She was entitled to her privacy, obviously embarrassed with my role in her life. I was clearly a teenage mistake, but grateful for the life she gave me.
I never really felt like she owed me anything. She made many sacrifices for my existence. First of all, she gave up attending high school and never graduated. She may have experienced some heartbreak from her relationship with Cecil when he went off to the Marines and soon married one of her classmates. She undoubtedly felt the wrath of her parents, fellow students, friends, church members and relatives regarding their disappointment with her promiscuity. We also don’t know how secretive this all was kept, as many young women in her position were shamefully hidden from those around them.
Maybe her parents never forgave her? Fortunately, for me, abortion was not a legal option, so the Suemma Coleman home put me on the right adoption path and quickly connected me with my loving Johnston parents. Perhaps the pregnancy ordeal caused a rift in the Banister family since the couple were distant cousins from the same small town. Her side could have been pushing for marriage, while he might have never admitted to their affair. She was certainly not secretive as to his identity in the adoption paperwork that I have. He was apparently nowhere near the area when I was born, likely in San Diego, so there is also the possibility that he never knew I existed. I’ll never know if she had any regrets in giving me up after birth or ever thought of me on my birthday. These are a few of the many mysteries that died with her.
The following obituary gives a few more details about her life. Neither of her two husbands are mentioned – Poole or Davidson. I have no plans to attend the funeral but will be there in spirit, as I have been her entire lifetime. After reading this, I will also never see another carnation without thinking of her. Rest in Peace!
Edna Faye Davidson April 9, 1933 – September 4, 2023:
Edna Faye Davidson, 90, of Seymour passed away on Monday evening, September 4, 2023, at Covered Bridge Health Campus in Seymour surrounded by her loved ones. She was born on April 9, 1933, in Shelbyville, IN the daughter of Ivan “Pete” Ruby (Taylor) Banister.
Edna is survived by two children, Janet Davidson of Indianapolis, IN and Jerry (Patti) Poole of Seymour; eight grandchildren, Michael A. Davidson, Rachel Cravens, Justin L. Davidson, Jason Poole, Scott Poole, Tammy Poole and Ronnie and Rebecca Schroder; sixteen great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. She is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Edna was preceded in death by her parents; two sons, Gary Lynn, and Larry Joe Davidson; three brothers, Charles Ray Banister, and Rex Banister, and Elmer Banister; and four sisters, Helen Barker, Evelyn Simpson, Eva Ferguson, and Wilma McDaniel.
Edna worked for Jay C Plus Grocery Stores in Seymour for over forty years in the bakery department, retiring in the early 2000’s. After retirement she enjoyed reading, tending to her flowers, especially her carnations and spending time outside watching the hummingbirds and squirrels. Her greatest joy though was being able to spend time with her family especially her grandkids, great grandkids, and great-great grandkids. She was a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Seymour.
A celebration of life for Edna will be held on Monday, September 11, 2023, at 1 p.m. at the Voss and Sons Funeral Home. Inurnment will take place at Riverview Cemetery in Seymour. The family will greet friends from 11 a.m. until the time of services at 1 p.m. on Monday September 11, 2023, at Voss and Sons Funeral Home.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or to the National Scleroderma Foundation.
Funeral arrangements for Edna have been entrusted with the Voss & Sons Funeral and Cremation Services of Seymour.
To send flowers to the family or place a tree in memory of Edna Faye Davidson, please visit our Tribute Store.
We keep coming “Back Home Again,” for family events, particularly in Indianapolis. Our first stop in the state was lunch at the Seymour Freddy’s on the last leg of our drive into Carmel. It was the closest to my bio-mother I’ve been since birth, since she supposedly is in a retirement home there, and in near proximity to my step-brother, Jerry, who works next door at the Walmart Distribution Center. There has still been no direct contact with this side of the Banister family, but they’ve resided in this area for years.
After dropping my wife off in Brown County’s Nashville, I made a trip back in time to nearby Bloomington and the Indiana University campus. It was somewhat disturbing. My very first college apartment had been converted into an office with gated parking underneath and stairways/patios now enclosed. The Sigma Chi house on 10th Street was gone, undoubtedly moved to Fraternity Row. Even more surprisingly, my second apartment complex, Colonial Crest, had been completely demolished. Most signs of my existence as a young adult had been erased. Even once arriving in Indy, The Keystone Sports Review, where I planned to have lunch with friends, was in the process of relocating. The former building had been leveled. We ended up at the Friendly Tavern in Zionsville instead, close to where I once lived while working in Lafayette. One dining establishment I was glad to see still doing good business was The Capri, where we went to dinner one night. It was built in 1951, the year I was born, and one of the few landmarks from my past still standing.
We extended our stay in Indy for a quickly planned funeral, following the beautiful family wedding that generated some adult friction and kid drama. Although our friend’s unexpected death was obviously a sad affair, we caught up with some old acquaintances at the viewing, including a former boss that promised me some Cooperstown memorabilia signed by his son-in-law, recent inductee Scott Rolen.
Our five nights in Indy included more Bourbon tasting at West Fork Whiskey to celebrate my birthday, along with s’mores prepared while sitting around our friend’s backyard fire-pit. After imposing on them as house guests, it was well past time for the long drive home. One morning I took the road weary Lexus to Discount Tire to have the malfunctioning pressure gage checked out from roughly hitting a curb in Louisville.
The next evening we made our way to Huntsville, Alabama a day late for dinner with my Banister family at Connor’s Steakhouse. My bio sister, Julianna, drove over from Tuscaloosa and stayed with her son and his wife. I learned a few more things about Cecil Banister, my birth father. He loved shrimp but rarely paid for it, often serving on juries just to get fed this favorite. He loved chocolate and popcorn, always had a dark tan, and wore hearing aids. I can relate to most of these things, but obviously shrimp is not an inherited taste trait. His grandson, Gabriel, is a ND fan, while Julianne, his mother, supports her Crimson Tide employer. It was great to get together with them, even if it was only for a short time.
With Hurricane Idalia targeted to hit Tallahassee in the morning, I made some last-minute arrangements with my son back in Florida to prepare our home for the storm, that fortunately had very little impact on our neighborhood. Once again, we had evacuated well, as had been the case with Ian when we were in Alaska. We also cancelled our next Marriott reservation and continued to stay at the Huntsville Element, a surprisingly great Westin property owned by Marriott, of course! Lunch was at The Cheesecake Factory, followed by a matinee movie of “Strays,” and dinner at PF Chang’s. We spent the last night in Dothan at a Courtyard, under the shadow of the giant peanut. Texas Roadhouse and Freddy’s were our last two dining spots as we fought our way through heavy rains on the way home. Tally was also grateful to be back in her bed, while Road Trip 2023 is a wrap!
Stay tuned for a poetic recap!
On our recent visit to the Tower of London, I was intrigued to discover that arguably my most famous DNA relative, William Penn, was imprisoned there. The Beefeater that conducted the tour inspired some further research on the Penn family connections to the Bannisters and Foists when he mentioned the familiar name as part of the historical presentation. I spent some time on the Ancestry Jerry Ban(n)ister Family Tree today reviewing this lineage.
In 1868 William II wrote a tract (The Sandy Foundation Shaken) which attacked the doctrine of the trinity. He was a frequent companion of George Fox, the founder of the Quakers. “Like most Quakers he suffered persecution for his beliefs and was imprisoned several times throughout his life, serving out sentences at Newgate Prison, and the Tower of London, among other locations. So much for freedom of speech or press! It was for the protection of the Quakers that Penn initially sought land in the British Colonies of America.”
King Charles II granted William, Jr. this request in 1681 to repay a debt owed to his father, Sir William Penn (1621-1670). The tract included the present-day states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. It was the result of the senior’s royal relationship with James, Duke of York, younger brother and eventual successor of Charles, who was soon appointed Lord High Admiral, on the Earl of Sandwich’s ship (later renamed the Royal Charles) which was sent to bring the king home to England following exile at Amsterdam in the Dutch Republic.
Sir William was also an English Admiral and Politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660-1670. He married Margaret Jasper, daughter of John Jasper, a wealthy Dutch merchant from Rotterdam, so he was quite influential. In 1653, as part of such connections, he helped to draw up the first code of tactics provided for the English Navy, 1664, Instructions by Sir W. Penn. This became the basis of the “Duke of York’s Sailing and Fighting Instructions.” In 1658, he was knighted by Henry Cromwell at Dublin Castle.
While imprisoned, William Jr. penned the book No Cross, No Crown published in 1669 and founded the city of Philadelphia in 1682. “As one of the earlier supporters of colonial unification, Penn wrote and urged for a union of all the English colonies in what, following the Revolutionary War, later became the United States.
I am the 13th generation of the Sir William Penn family. His grandson was John Penn (1680-1749), followed by Moses Penn (1712-1759), and the famous Declaration of Independence signer John Penn (1741-1788), a Virginia lawyer, elected in 1775 to the Continental Congress. His daughter, Lucy Penn Taylor (1766-1831) married Reverand John Taylor, and their son, Major Willis Taylor (1788-1863) espoused Nancy Morgan Taylor, as the family migrated from Virginia into Kentucky and eventually Indiana.
Their son, John W Taylor 1814-1883 joined Mary Jane Shoemaker and the result was a daughter, Martha Ann Taylor (1848-1914) along with six other girls and two boys. Martha then married Randolph Foist (1835-1891), whose son, John Foist (1868-1956) united with Minnie Banister and began my Hoosier heritage. Her father was David Banister (1833-1918) from Jennings County whose brother Henry Otis Banister and wife Elizabeth Jane Beatty Banister bore my grandfather, Ivan Otis Banister. Edna Faye, one of his daughters was my birth mother.
You now know the story of my famous Penn relatives. I’m glad my recent London visit spurred this investigation into my past. It’s also interesting to note that my Florida neighbor just five doors down is also linked to this story as a Foist or Foust relative. I discovered this by chance at a neighborhood get together after asking if he had Indiana Relatives. He happened to grow up in Jennings County. It’s indeed a small world, despite the long Penn to Banister journey to Seymour, Indiana from the jail cells of the Tower of London.
My chair yoga instructor is in Costa Rica today, so there will be no class. I hope to get to Costa Rica someday, reinspired by the Reluctant Traveler, hosted by Eugene Levy. He also went to Finland in last night’s episodes on Apple TV. I can easily relate to his comedic approach to avoiding nature. We had just finished Daisy & The Six, after growing stale watching Lost for months. It will have to satisfy the “Theater Tuesday” urge, since my wife needs to stay home today to prepared for her book club event tonight. I will escape in a friend’s Miata for a drive down the coast and dinner at Bobarino’s Pizzeria. It has just recently reopened after Hurricane Ian damage.
My sister and her entourage may or may not come tomorrow. I was hoping to see my nieces all grown up, but an emergency room visit may send them back to Indiana early. Their father has been hospitalized on three recent occasions, again yesterday, and guilt has come into play. I certainly wouldn’t want my kids shortening their precious vacation time at my expense – I’m sure he wouldn’t either. Hopefully, he will feel better soon, but other factors like getting to SeaWorld and nasty weather may also interfere in their planned stay with us.
My birth mother supposedly celebrated her 90th birthday on Easter. In past years, I’ve at least been able to see pictures of her on Facebook, but both of her kids have mysteriously stopped posting. There has been no word for some time on her health status, but 90-years of life is encouraging for me to think about. Cheers! Hopefully, I have some of those genes. My adoptive parents both lived to be 93, so I’ve been fortunate to see longevity run in the family. My birth father took his life at 79, so I figure I have at least ten more good years ahead of me.
It’s a shame that I was never able to make contact with any of Edna Faye Banister’s family members. My bio-mom is still a mystery and apparently still wants nothing to do with me. No one has bothered to answer my letters or respond to my Messenger notes. Thankfully, it’s not that way on birth father Cecil’s side of the family. They have all been very gracious about staying in touch. At least, half of my genetic family history is clear.
As I continue with Storyworth, I’ve apparently ignored their suggestions on what to write about, as I recall lifelong memories for my family. One of those topics was apparently of interest to my son. “What was it like growing up with your mother?” was their question of the day. I’ve never followed a structured approach to writing, so this will be a different challenge.
Let me start with a little background on my parents. My mother, his grandmother, was a petite lady and a former beauty queen, sorority sister, and college grad. She was a recreation major at Indiana University, so trained to keep people actively engaged. Before she married my dad, she also worked for Red Gold canning tomatoes. It was their top priority to start family, but allegedly due to my father’s ice hockey accident, they were unable to have children of their own. The alternative was adoption, a highly regulated and controversial process that involved raising someone else’s mistake. There were apparently extensive background checks, lengthy interviews, and rules to follow. They went to the Suemma Coleman Agency (a home for unwed mothers) in Indianapolis for guidance.
I don’t know how long they waited or how costly the exercise was? All I know is that I was two months old when they took me into their Elkhart home around Halloween. It was a two-bedroom home, and it was required that I have my own room. When they added my adopted sister four-years later, our living room doubled as their bedroom with a fold-out couch, so Judy could have a required room of her own. This is a strong indication of how selfless they were in adding us to their family.
They did parenting right, whether it was demanded in the adoption contracts or not. They took me to church every Sunday, taught me right from wrong, curbed my language, and made me mow the lawn to earn an allowance. I was given everything but a sense of direction.
Mom was a busy lady as a stay-at-home parent. She was involved in a bridge club, ladies club, collected stamps, and owned a small business called the Calico Cottage. She organized several big birthday parties for me growing up. If I ever needed to borrow a tool, she was a much better resource than my dad who was usually working at Miles Laboratories as Assistant Treasurer. He frequently traveled to Europe, but my mom was never into flying, so family trips were usually by car. Mom was never a good cook, relying mostly on the microwave, clearly evident when the pressure cooker once exploded while she was trying to make applesauce. She was, however, highly organized with a freezer full of neatly stacked soups and vegetables, frozen in the shapes of the very bowls they would be nuked and served in.
Her mother, Grace, was a competent cook, canner, and pie-maker, but seemingly only passed along a jovial nature, love of games, and strong will to her only daughter. I was mom’s treasured son long after the initial adoption agency monitoring was lifted to assure that I was never mistreated. It’s a wonder that I was ever allowed out of the house without constant supervision, but she was rarely over-protective. I remember being gone most of the day while allowed to roam the neighborhood, play in the park behind our house, and even go to the nearby stores. I don’t recall her having to escort me to grade school every day that was about a mile away. I mostly got everything I wanted, but there was a time when she wouldn’t let me go see House on Haunted Hill at the movie theater because it was too scary.
I was a terrible teen, giving her every opportunity to regret ever adopting me. I was ungrateful, lazy, foul tempered, and disrespectful. She was the opposite of all this ugliness and somehow tolerated my hormone-raged moods. I slept late, lived like a slob, and never really liked myself. However, my two best qualities were saving money and getting good grades, important disciplines that they taught me. The only time I struggled in school they drilled me with flash cards to the point where Math was my best subject.
I couldn’t have asked for better parents, but they were sadly never rich enough to satisfy me, whatever that means. We were Country Club members, lived in a nice neighborhood, paid for my college, bought me nice clothes, but somehow it was never enough. We didn’t live on the river, own a boat, take elaborate vacations, or own the first color TV. I’m ashamed of this now in realizing how spoiled I really was growing up. I only hope that she can forgive me. Thanks Mom, for all the love.
“That’s gonna leave a mark,” is the movie line delivered by Chris Farley in the comedy Tommy Boy. In real life, however, to make your mark means “to do something that will be remembered or that makes one famous or successful.” At 71 years of age, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be famous, but I’ve been a successful brother, friend, father, grandfather, husband, stepfather, and businessman, with a few slips along the way. There has yet to be a statue to be erected, or a monument built in my honor, but I’ve seen my name etched on a few plaques, trophies, and certificates.
I continue to write for Storyworth, a gift from my family, that requires me to write my life’s story. It’s kind of like writing your own epitaph, so I apologize in advance for blowing my own trumpet. I can almost see myself speaking at my own funeral, so please bear with me.
Both of my grandfathers, Ross Adrian Hancher and William Jennings Johnston, along with my dad, Burton Lee Johnston, have achieved military honors, with their names inscribed on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Indianapolis. My greatest accomplishment might have been avoiding the Vietnam draft that took the lives of several of my high school classmates. They never had a chance to be a father, husband, grandfather, stepfather or businessman. I was fortunate to have a college deferment, attending both Albion College and Indiana University where I graduated in 1973.
I was married for the first time that year, had a son in 1974 and became a grandfather in 2007, 2009, and again in 2018. I remarried in 2001 while spending over 45 years in the media business (radio, agency, TV, and newspaper) before retiring in 2016. There have been no Hall of Fame honors, but the Indianapolis Advertising Club once named me “Man of the Year.” I’ve also earned several sales awards in the business, but the main benefit was a rewarding career that comfortably helped to support a growing family all these years.
Being adopted, I really now have two families while discovering over 900 DNA connections. My birth name was Jerry Lee Bannister and I have met several members of this group. I often wonder what life would have been like had I not had the good fortune of being loved and raised by Burt and Cathy Johnston? They left their generous mark on me, the most important in my life. It made me what I am today.
I sent a note to my half-sister telling her how often we referred to her humorous quip after checking on our condition during hurricane Ian. When I told her we were in Alaska, she responded with: “Boy, you really know how to evacuate!!!” She must have been on my mind this morning as I composed this poem about the newly found sibling relationship with her and four sisters. The brother died years ago in a car accident and the mother was not aware until 65-years later that her soon to be husband, now deceased, had fathered a child – me. Surprise! In all fairness, he probably didn’t know either. An Ancestry DNA test confirmed the bond and I’ve slowly gotten to know the family, starting with the “favorite.” Since our initial meetings, one of the sisters has sadly passed, and I got to meet “Fav’s” son, Gabe, who’s wife apparently initiated the test as a gift for his mother.
I Never Knew
I Never knew of you,
Didn’t have a clue.
But glad we finally met,
Now that I do.
If it weren’t for Gabe,
I might never have found.
My five secret sisters,
Scattered all around.
To meet you all,
My ultimate quest.
But “Fav’s” become,
The one I know best.
We were a match,
On the Ancestry test.
It was like opening,
A treasure chest.
Would be surprised.
Of this bond,
That he devised.
At the heart of the matter,
Is your mother so strong.
She’s lost three loves,
Then, I come along.
You’ve all stuck together,
As Bannister’s should.
In the eight-sided cabin,
Made of Scipio wood.
I’ll never be your favorite,
To your brother I concede.
But you can have another,
Should you feel the need.
Our twisted family tree,
With its hidden roots.
As I continue to search,
For yet revealed shoots.
This man I never met
Is in our hearts today.
He’s clearly in our eyes,
And in our DNA.
Copyright 2022 johnstonwrites.com
As an adopted child, I often wonder what life would be like being raised by a different father? In my case, it would have been two extremes. My adopted father was a successful financial executive with an 8 to 5 desk job, who frequently traveled to Switzerland, Italy, and France, as I recall. He worked for Miles Laboratories, manufacturers of Alka-Seltzer and One-A-Day vitamins, among other popular products, at their Elkhart, Indiana headquarters. My mother, also a Indiana University graduate, where they met, stayed home to care for me and my 3-years younger adopted sister.
By contrast, my bio-dad, who was described as “gregarious,” held a factory job since graduating from high school and worked nights, the shift he preferred. He would proudly punch Clock #1 at Cummins Engine in Columbus, Indiana, an honor he was given upon returning from Korea. His wife was kept busy at home raising six children in tiny Scipio, Indiana.
If there truly is a multiverse, as posed in science fiction stories, I can sometimes envision myself living life under these two different circumstances. Maybe more, if you consider that bio-dad probably never knew that I existed and obviously didn’t marry bio-mom. She was the youngest of a large farm family that secreted her to an adoption home to give birth to me. The other possibility in this multiverse is being raised by a single mother in times when this was rare and unacceptable. Fortunately, for me, they chose the adoption route.
I did grow up a Hoosier, living in northern Indiana as opposed to southern. I ended up in a city of about 40,000, at a school with over 1,000 in my high school graduating class, and in neighborhoods with sidewalks. I joke about this because my wife and I looked at a home once near Lebanon, Indiana. My concern was that there were “no sidewalks”- apparently a bit too “country” for my tastes. None of this would have been the case with the rural lifestyle in my multiverse options.
I could have been the oldest of seven children in bio-dad’s household, if his wife to be had been understanding of my circumstances. She was certainly shocked when I showed up in her life as a result of a DNA test, matching one of her daughters. Fortunately, I was conceived over a year before they married in October of 1951, so he was not disloyal to her. I also could have been the oldest of five children conceived by my bio-mom, Edna Faye Banister, through two different men, either of which could have been a step-dad to me. Or, my very presence in Edna’s young life might have discouraged any further relationships on her part, as I fantasize about the multiverse of possibilities.
Regardless, I had the opportunity to spend some time alone with my half-sister when my wife and I visited Tuscaloosa on our recent road trip. She gave me some background on what it was like to be raised by the man that contributed to half of my DNA. I also met her son who found my facial expressions to mimic those of his grandfather, a.k.a. Cecil Ralph Banister.
Working a night shift, Cecil was rarely home, unless asleep, and spent most of his time outdoors and shirtless with a dark tan. He was an exceptional athlete who stood out at 6’2″ tall in high school basketball and excelled at shuffleboard and golf in his later years. He played industrial league sports with Cummins and was extremely competitive. As an example, he taught his grandson to play chess and then proceeded to beat him 285 consecutive times, counting each one, before the poor kid finally beat him.
Grandpa would take him on long nature walks while teaching him to speak Pig Latin. His only son, besides me, died in a motorcycle accident at age 16. Words like “country,” “outdoors,” and “nature” don’t seem to be in my vocabulary. I do enjoy sports but was never much more than an average participant, while my adopted father was short and left-handed, so fundamentals were not easy for him to teach me. At least, I was fast!
Cecil was a professional shuffleboard player, he would win prizes, including liquor bottles that he rarely touched. He once sat all the kids down at the table and had them sample the booze, hoping to discourage them from drinking because of the unpleasant taste. I don’t think it worked!
My adopted father had a bad temper but he was mild-mannered. He never hit me. Cecil, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate to slap the girls and used switches on all the kids. He was not violent with his wife, sticking to hands-on discipline around the house. I only got in one fight in my life and was certainly never encouraged to use my fists. Wrestling practice was as close to combat as I ever got.
Cecil could be a controversial figure. He painted a swastika on his shuffleboard stick and golf balls to identify them as his. It caused a stir in various competitions where he participated. Why not just his initials CRB?
Guns and hunting have never been a part of my life. I could have never fended for myself or protected my family. Cecil was a hunter and owned a gun. He sadly shot himself with it through the eye at age 79. The pain was apparently more than he could stand after surviving the war, by-pass surgery, and the health issues associated with lymphoma.
My adopted father, Burt, bought a sailboat, the closest he ever came to commuting with nature, with the exception of his well-kept lawn and petunias. After the war, he promised himself never to spend another night in a tent. The one time we went camping together, he stayed by the fire all night. Cecil thrived on being outside and hand-built an octagonal cabin on his Creekside, Scipio property with mirrors so he had a 360-degree view of the land and creatures around him. Burt, on the other hand, never owned a tool box. We just used my mom’s!
One of Cecil’s daughters gave me a spoon engraved with USMC on the handle. It was obviously something he took from the Marine’s Mess Hall and is now the only possession of his that I now own. I also have a few pictures, newspaper clippings, and an obituary. I have lots of pictures of the only man I ever called “dad” and all of his “years of service” pins from Miles. The only thing the two of them had in common was a “love” for IU basketball and Bobby Knight, something that I also shared.