Miriam Gollub Banks, 96, passed away November 25, 2017 at Montgomery Place, where she’d lived since 2006. Miriam was brilliant, inquisitive, and highly educated — a woman ahead of her time. She was demanding and nurturing, precise and stubborn, known for her quirky sense of humor.
Miriam grew up in Philadelphia, in a sprawling extended family. Her parents came to this country in the early 1900s. Her father was one of 10 siblings, her mother one of eight. Her brother Morton lamented that she was the star of Simon Gratz High School, so he chose another high school to avoid comparison.
Miriam went to Bryn Mawr College. After graduation, she worked at Rohm & Haas in Philadelphia, in chemical manufacturing. When World War II ended, she moved to Chicago to pursue Master’s and PhD degrees in Biochemistry at the U of C. She met Seymour Banks, a Business School student, shortly thereafter. They married in 1949, and lived in Hyde Park for the rest of their married life. In graduate school, Miriam and Seymour made lifelong friends: Gil and Blossom Aberg, Irving and Harriet Berg, Eugene and Florence Goldwasser, Eugene and Adelaide Kennedy, Lloyd and Bonnie Kozloff, and Paul and Pamela Talalay.
Miriam and Seymour raised their daughter Hannah, and sons Joel and David in one of the first four Webb & Knapp (Harry Wiese, I.M. Pei) rowhouses in the 5600 block of Blackstone, on a GI Bill mortgage. When they arrived in 1959, they found a sea of mud between them and the IC tracks. Construction of the Harper Square development was about to begin.
They loved Hyde Park, exploring Jackson Park, birding on Wooded Isle, and playing tennis at the Quadrangle Club. Seymour and Miriam took advantage of the opportunities Hyde Park offered; they were among the founding members of the Hyde Park Co-op, and helped start the Co-op Gourmet Cooking Club.
The kids went to Ray School, then to Lab and U-High. Seymour and Miriam were active in the Ray School PTA, often in leadership positions. Miriam’s scientific talents led to her volunteer work evaluating and improving Chicago Public Schools’ science curriculum.
Piano lessons while growing up gave Miriam an appreciation for music, which she tried to pass on to her children. Years long search for an appropriate piano (and a place in the house in which to put it) proved fruitless. But Miriam did learn to play the Baroque recorder at the YMCA, and played it at home with her children. Ukulele, guitar and bagpipe chanter followed, with limited success.
The family attended Chicago Symphony concerts and dance company performances, like the Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theater. After one winter ABT performance, Miriam insisted on waiting at the stage door, to meet Mikhail Baryshnikov and get his autograph.
While both Miriam and Seymour loved the city, they wanted their family to experience country life as well. Many summers, the family vacationed at working farms and ranches in Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Wyoming and Nova Scotia. Miriam had spent summers at her grandmother’s farm, so this was right up her alley. The family did chores, took borrowed animals to county fairs and entered them in competitions (sometimes winning ribbons), milked cows, and helped with the haying.
Having studied French all her life, Miriam was delighted when she and Seymour moved to Grenoble, France after his retirement. Planning to stay for 18 months, they remained for nearly five years. Miriam’s command of French made that possible; she handled most local interactions, especially on the phone. With Grenoble as a base, they took ski trips in the Alps, and traveled throughout Europe.
Returning to Chicago, they enjoyed all Hyde Park and the city offered: Court Theater, Mandel Hall, the Art Institute, and Chicago’s many culinary delights.
Miriam’s family is thankful for the loving kindness she received from the Montgomery Place community, the staff of JourneyCare, and from Ade and Titi, her very generous caregivers.
A memorial celebration will be held Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, at 2 p.m., in the East Room at Montgomery Place, 5550 South Shore Drive. All are welcome.
We miss her terribly, are grateful to have had her with us for so long, but glad Miriam and Seymour are finally reunited after 21 years. He was crazy about her.
With love, Hannah, Joel and David Banks.