Eugenia Bank remembered as ‘a great lady’
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News September 23, 2012 7:10PM
Updated: October 25, 2012 6:07AM
Easter wasn’t Easter without Eugenia Bank’s Holy Saturday egg decorating contest. Considering Eugenia had 10 children, 21 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, the contests quickly became elaborate events.
Master of ceremonies was family friend Warren Carlin of Joliet. Carlin created categories and distributed simple prizes. Eugenia “Genie” provided the dyes and a host of supplementary materials including pipe cleaners, cardboard boxes and sparkles.
Yet Eugenia, Carlin said, was not only a prolific and talented artist, but a strong, intelligent and deeply spiritual woman. She had friendships dating back to kindergarten and was a resilient “pillar of strength” for her family.
“She was not Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama or Julia Child,” Carlin said. “But she was Eugenia Bank and she was a great lady.”
This daughter of an Irish mother and Hungarian father (who became a judge) grew up with a focus on higher education at a time women didn’t often receive it. She was one of three “Maudes,” the nickname given to Genie and the two lifelong friends.
Genie graduated from the College of St. Francis with a bachelor’s degree in art. She married Louis Bank in 1941, the beginning of their 70-year marriage, although when Louis first met Genie, he felt he didn’t stand a chance with her.
Louis had quit school after the eighth grade. His father had suddenly died, so Louis found work as a caddy to pay the mortgage. Genie didn’t smoke or drink, a priority for him, and she was more quiet and reserved than the other women he knew.
He especially admired Genie’s artistic abilities and treasured the charcoal portraits she created of each member of the family. “I still have a lot of her pictures on the wall,” Louis said. “She was a wonderful woman.”
Genie’s youngest child, Bernie Sienko of Washington, said her mother experimented with many mediums: oil, watercolor, charcoal, pastel, silkscreen, chalk, string art and decoupage. Children’s bedroom walls became the canvas for Genie’s colorful murals.
When Bernie entered kindergarten, Genie, then 46, began a career as an art instructor for Joliet Grade School District, teaching primarily at Gompers Junior High School.
After she retired, Genie taught art several days a week at the Will County Jail. Occasionally and sadly, Genie would see a former student there.
As a faithful associate of the Third Order of the Sisters of St. Francis, Genie met regularly with a group of women for spiritual reading and Bible study. “She had great skills for making people comfortable,” Bernie said. “She was always warm and loving.”
Contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-467-5249 or email@example.com.