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William Merritt Banta
October 15, 1925 ~ August 31, 2023 (age 97) 97 Years Old
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William Merritt Banta, age 97, passed away at home surrounded by his loving family on Thursday, August 31st, 2023. Born in Hammond, Indiana, William was a descendant of the Dixon family, of Scotland.
He grew up among musically talented aunts and uncles, some having appeared in Vaudeville. In high school he played the cornet in marching band, was first chair in the Hammond High School Orchestra, and played in dance bands around the area. When he was 17, he played in a dance band at Lake Shafer, Indiana, for two weeks before joining the Navy Air Corps, and continued his musical pursuits for many years after in adult bands.
He fought in the Pacific Theater in World War II as ball turret gunner with the Torpedo Ten Squadron “Buzzard Brigade” (insignia designed by Walt Disney), and served on the USS Intrepid. The ship was kamikazed, but returned to active duty in the Pacific after repairs. He reconnected with his squadron in the 1990's and served proudly as their president as he and his wife traveled throughout the country for annual reunions.
William, or Bill as he was known, became a research specialist for Sinclair and helped to develop the formula for “Mold-A-Rama” wax figurines popularized at the World's Fairs in the 1960's. In the 1980's, Bill was considered the world's leading authority on Catalytic Cracking Units for Arco Petroleum Products Company in Harvey, Illinois. He consulted with industry leaders from many countries, including China, Japan and The Netherlands. Bill later became President of the Arco Retirees Group and greatly enjoyed once-per-week breakfasts and excursions with wonderful friends.
Bill and his beautiful wife (Shirley) Jean were avid sailors and treasured their years at the Illiana Yacht Club, where Bill once served as Vice Commodore. The friendships made during those years lasted throughout the remainder of their lives.
Known for his quick, dry wit, William kept his family in stitches and cracked jokes through to the very end. He was a devoted Chicago Bears fan, never missing a game. He had the most intense blue eyes, was very humble, never complained and was always ready to help others. Throughout his lifetime, he helped family and friends and continued to help with remodeling projects well into his seventies. William was extremely intelligent, could determine the answer to any problem and kept his family on point through his last day on earth.
He and his wife Jean, were married for 76 years. He joined his wife in Heaven just in time to share a dance for their 79th anniversary.
Preceded in death by his parents, Merritt and Angely Banta, his wife Jean, sister Donna Rae Perdew, and many family and friends. He is survived by his children, Tom (Lois) Banta, Nancy (Rob) Boyles, granddaughters Allison (Jake) Alexander and Elise (Chris) Phillips, numerous nieces and nephews, and one great grandson.
His was a life very well lived. He was the captain of our ship and of our hearts, and we will miss his wise countenance upon our lives. Rest well, Dad, we love you forever.