Mortee-Anne Banasky took civic involvement seriously. She spent much of the past 30 years since she arrived in Winthrop serving on the Town Council, and was also mayor for a time. That perspective and experience often paid off during council discussions which, as is often the case in small towns, cycled back to issues that might have been previously tackled years or decades ago.
The other thing she loved was heading up to one of the U.S. Forest Service fire lookout towers where she spent most of her summers, most recently on Leecher Mountain.
Mort died last week at age 73, much too young for someone who obviously was not done contributing.
There was no way to overlook her presence on the council. Mort was a talker, and sometimes there wasn’t much of a filter between her brain and her mouth — but she knew that about herself, and laughed about it when she acknowledged that she had been going on a bit.
Most of the time, that was Mort working through an issue out loud, considering options, raising questions, citing previous decisions. Although she was a master of quick wisecracks, Mort took her council responsibility to heart, thought about things and hashed them through, always with the motivation of doing what was best for the town. Opinionated? You betcha. Self-interested? Not a bit. As Mayor Sue Langdalen said affectionately this week, “Mort’s Mort, and we always knew that.”
Mort’s death last week was more than a shock to her friends and colleagues. Winthrop will miss her activism, her intelligence, her wit, her generosity of spirit, and her devotion to a town that she cared about passionately. You can’t really calculate the value of someone like that to a community, but you sure feel it when they’re gone.
Mort’s chair was empty at last week’s town council meeting, and at the time nobody knew why. But it worried people, because everyone knew that Mort would absolutely be there if she could. On the agenda was a hot topic, again: whether to allow all-terrain vehicles on the streets of Winthrop. Her vote could have decided the issue. I wish we could know what she would have said, how she would have decided. Either way, her first consideration would have been, as always, what’s in the best interests of Winthrop? That will be her legacy, and her enduring example for us all.
Change of season
In a few days it will be September. Labor Day will be in the rearview mirror. School will start. The first fall sports events are coming; hunting season is marked on calendars all over the region. And how many people have you heard already longing for snow, which seems relatively convenient compared to what we’ve been experiencing? The universal mindset is that summer is “over.” Of course, it’s not officially autumn until Sept. 22, and the fire season extends beyond that.
The Methow Valley’s summer of 2014 is already legendary for its onslaught of disastrous events, and we keep being reminded that those may not be over yet either. Everything that has happened has consequences beyond the original episode. Even if Mother Nature takes a break, the havoc left behind will take years to repair, rebuild and emotionally recover from.
I’m ready for it to be fall, not just because summer was such an endurance test but also because fall is a special time around here. The daytime temperatures start to drop, leaves turn, the days are still long enough to recreate in a lot of sunshine, the nights offer exquisite star-gazing. Knowledgeable fans of the Methow Valley know that fall is prime time for visiting, after the families with kids have gone home and parked the RV or packed the tent or stowed the bikes and boats.
It will take more than a change of season to put this summer behind us. But nothing we’ve been hit with will make us forget where we are, and why we’re here.