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Nancy Bannick

Honolulu’s community leaders wonder who’ll carry on the work of the city’s most passionate preservationist.



Bannick’s many causes included Hawaii Public Radio and the Honolulu Symphony.

Photos: Top, Hawaii Public Radio and right, by Carl Hefner

Honolulu lost one of its fiercest defenders when Nancy Bannick died in February, after 60 years of helping to protect the city’s historic places and community organizations. She arrived on Oahu fresh from Stanford University in 1948, served two-plus decades as editor of Sunset magazine’s Honolulu bureau and spent another generation giving back to Hawaii—from simple actions like planting trees to such monumental efforts as leading the charge to declare Chinatown a historic district in 1973. 

Hawaiian advocate Peter Apo worked with Bannick to preserve the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. He remembers the petite 81-year-old as “a one-man army, relentless, who could see Hawaii slipping away. She was a despot about keeping the little things that connected our past with our future, preserving those things that define us as a people.”

Bannick was one of the earliest supporters of Hawaii Public Radio and worked tirelessly on behalf of at least a half-dozen other causes, including the Honolulu Symphony, Kapiolani Park, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum. As hard as it is to imagine what Honolulu would look like today without Bannick, it may be even harder to picture the city 60 years from now, without a busload of volunteers trying to pick up where she left off.

“It’s a vacuum that not any one person can fill,” says Apo. “She was one of those people, and I’m speaking as a Native Hawaiian, that reminds you that being a true kamaaina is not about blood or birth, it’s about getting it. And she got it.”

Bannick packed her schedule with community board meetings, pledge drives and fundraisers, sometimes even inadvertently triple-booking her appointments. “The legacy she left extends so far beyond the necessary philanthropy,” says HPR general manager Michael Titterton. “She would give money in a way that was inspiring—you couldn’t be indifferent to her desires. She lit fires in the hearts of innumerable people, including mine. Nancy was truly unique, no question. Unless we get real lucky, there is no replacement.”
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Honolulu Magazine May 2018
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