IN MEMORIAM: Heaven Hails ‘Handrail Harry’

Tim Bannister was a fun guy to have known. He even had a funny handle, “Handrail Harry,” based on his given name, Harry Bannister, and a play on words with bannister. In typical quirky fashion, “Tim” was also a nickname, the origin of which I never found out. He died April 9.

During the years I knew Tim, I often wished we were closer in age (he was 20-plus years my senior). I think given more time we would have had a blast serving clients, sharing ideas and enjoying our friendship.

I was regularly dosed with a small sample of that wished-for parity. Every client we met, including our last shortly before Tim’s death, placed him in his 50s. He was fit and looked healthy and bright-eyed, but he didn’t look particularly young. It was the energy and optimism he radiated that backdated Tim’s chronological age.

He never failed to greet me with a hearty, “Paulie, my boy!” whenever we met or talked on the phone. Even our final conversation began that way, although it quickly became apparent that was the extent of the energy he could muster.

Tim and I worked together for seven or so years, after a mutual friend brought him into a promotional project we were working on. A year or so after I bought this newspaper, Tim joined me as a business partner and handled advertising sales and business development roles. We had begun to expand and promote our services to a variety of clients and I often asked Tim to deliver tough news. Although I joked that he was much nicer than I was and people liked him better, it was true.

And so I’ll miss that creative synergy we had and projects that might have been. But I’ll miss most Tim’s warm friendship and the zest for life that buzzed and crackled off of him like a current.

Tim was a mentor to me, more personally than professionally. He rode a motorcycle and owned an inn. He ran for the county commission in his adopted hometown of Frankfort. He soldiered through his battle with cancer with grace and dignity. He wrote a column for our newspaper chronicling his experiences in treatment. He dealt with the indignities of a brutal disease without sacrificing his optimism and humanity.

He was a character, to be sure. I invited him over one Thanksgiving and he jetted off to connect with his girlfriend before we even got to dinner. If it were anyone else, I would have been offended. One Christmas he sent me drumsticks with little speakers in them, so when you tapped them on a hard surface they made amplified drum noises. He sent me offbeat political postcards. He got away with saying some off the wall things in conversations without offending.

Tim beat the first round of cancer, and I thought he would beat this latest round. We were exchanging emails and calls during that last week. I had seen Tim tired and weak during previous treatments and expected him to come back from this latest round with characteristic force of will.

Although I only knew Tim a few years, it felt like a lot more. Perhaps the saddest thing about Tim’s passing is that he would have made the most of extra years, and they would have been fun.

Rest well, my friend.

—Paul Natinsky