Former Marshalltown resident finds new career helping others

“My life has been a good one,” said Wayne Bannon, 66, of Memphis, Tenn.

The Marshalltown native was in a reflective mood discussing two careers – one in the Air Force – and another as an educator.

Both were extremely rewarding but it his present career as a volunteer that he finds exciting.

Bannon, who proudly calls himself a member of the Marshalltown High School class of 1964, doesn’t consider his efforts to make a Memphis a better place to live, work – rather, he considers it a blessing in his life.

His efforts have ranged from implementing a program which tutored high school students after school to Habitat for Humanity and related housing projects.

He found time to help the United Way, the local blood bank and many others not only as a volunteer, but a project manager.

Each volunteer initiative gave him the opportunity to meet more people, gain more knowledge and thereby more effectively help those in need.

He was a key organizer of the Whitehaven Alliance of Churches and Neighborhoods.

“The goal of the organization is to encourage churches and families in specific neighborhoods to reach out and identify the needs of their community and work together to meet those needs,” he said.

Bannon help organized the churches to sponsor the first blood drive hosted by the African-American community.

He was inspired and has become a 12-gallon blood donor.

Bannon and others followed up that success with an opportunity to assist those living in low-income apartments by establishing a mobile dental van for residents, providing GED instruction and holding job fairs.

After high school graduation, Bannon took a position with Marshalltown’s KIOWA Corp. (now Ace Precision International, LLC).

His plan was to have an extensive career at the business.

“My plans were to remain there and live a happy and prosperous life,” he said.

However, a change of heart directed him to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. And that change of heart was life changing, as his military career took Bannon throughout the United States and around the world. Seattle, Amarillo, Texas, Mesa, Ariz. and Ramstein, Germany and finally Memphis, Tenn. were points of call.

In his travels he met fellow MHS graduates Terry Mellows in Italy and Ron Wooster in Germany.

Following his honorable discharge in 1969, he was accepted into a pilot undergraduate program at the former University of Memphis (now Memphis State University).

“I have been in Memphis ever since,” Bannon said. “But I always will consider Marshalltown home.”

The pilot program, sponsored by the federal government, paid all tuition if Bannon would commit to teaching physical education in the Memphis public schools following graduation.

After graduation, Bannon embarked on a challenging, but rewarding 20-year career as a physical education teacher and football coach.

He retired as an educator in 2003, but the organizational skills learned in the Air Force and as an educator would serve him well working with not-for-profit organizations.

His knack of meeting people with Marshalltown connections followed him to Memphis and took place in the summer of 2012.

Volunteers with the Catholic Heart Work Camp were in town.

Each summer a group of approximately 1,200 sophomores, juniors and seniors works nation wide to clean property, mend fences, repair roofs and a variety of other tasks to the improve the lives and property of those in need.

One day Bannon was visiting with a group of the youth from Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“One such volunteer was Jack Ballaltak of Minnesota,” Bannon said. “He is the grandson of Larry and Joyce Ballaltak of Marshalltown. Jack is to be commended for his unselfishness in helping those in need.”

Vic Hellberg, of Marshalltown, who knew Bannon as a fellow classmate from junior high through high school, was not surprised to learn of Bannon’s achievements both in education and as a community volunteer.

“I’m not surprised he had a successful career as an educator,” Hellberg said. “I think it was a good fit for Wayne. And he returns to Marshalltown once a year to help with our class of 1964 projects. So, I’m not surprised that in retirement, he is still making substantial contributions and helping others.”