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Obituaries

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Jean Juliet Ely Banning

Jean Juliet Ely Banning, long time citizen of Marin County, died gently in her sleep on October 19, 2015. She was 96 years young.
Born in Washington, D.C. into a military family, she and her twin sister, her two brothers, and younger sister grew up as self-described "army brats." The family moved many times all over the country and the Hawaiian Islands. While in the Islands, she attended Punahou School and learned to ride a horse from George Patton long before he became a general. Returning to Washington, D.C. for high school, she was known as a natural athlete — an effortless swimmer, possessor of a terrific tennis backhand, and a natural seat on a horse. Living in the nation's capital, the family attended formal White House functions during the Roosevelt administration.
When her family moved to San Francisco, Jean attended San Francisco College for Women. She transferred to UC Berkeley, where she earned a bachelor's and master's in social work. During World War II, Jean worked in Censorship, reading mail sent into and out of San Francisco. She met her future husband, naval officer George Vroom Banning. They knew each other a few months before George proposed by telephone from Salt Lake City. Knowing that he would soon ship out for the Pacific, they were married after a three-day engagement in a formal wedding and reception for 100 quickly assembled guests. George returned after the war was over. Five days later their first child, Juliet, was born; four years later, Peter was born.
After the war, George began his architectural practice. Jean and her family moved to Belvedere in 1955 and became citizens of Marin. They lived in the house George designed for them, which he called his "House for Jean." Jean loved being a mom. She focused on raising her children and becoming active in community issues. A few months after moving to Belvedere, the Utah Construction Co. proposed to slice off the tops of the Tiburon Hills and fill Richardson's Bay in order to develop "another Ft. Lauderdale." She quickly learned the ropes of local political action and was one of many in Belvedere who worked to defeat this proposal.
Over these years, she was deeply involved in local, national and international environmental and humanitarian activities. In recognition of both George and Jean, the city of Belvedere named Jean and George Banning 1993 Citizens of the Year.
After nearly 50 years in Belvedere, the Bannings moved to The Tamalpais, a retirement community in Greenbrae, where they made many wonderful friends.
Jean is lovingly remembered for her joy in living, her unique and fearless style, her generosity, compassion, originality in all things, and her great love of good food.
She is survived by her son Peter, her daughter Juliet, by numerous grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
All who knew her are invited to her memorial service to be held on Saturday November 21st, at 1:30 pm at the Community Congregational Church, 145 Rock Hill Drive, Tiburon.

(Published November 18, 2015)

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