Paula Zyto Banks, 85, former daycare provider, gardener, Holocaust survivor

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Paula Zyto Banks, 85, died peacefully in her Oak Park home on March 4, 2012. "They will never make another Paula," her husband liked to say. She was born on Feb. 3, 1927 in the small town of Dzialoszyce, Poland, located near Krakow. A Jewish Holocaust survivor, she was the only surviving daughter of Josek Zyto and Kajla Lejzerowicz who had two other daughters, Chaja and Chana. Of the numerous Jewish relatives she had in Dzialoszyce, Ms. Banks was the only known survivor. She survived, just barely, when one of the liberating British soldiers stepped on her nearly dead body in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945.

After a long convalescence, she immigrated to England, where she worked in a children's home in southeast London. While at a dance in nearby Beckenham, she met Victor Banks. They married and she soon convinced him to sell his motorcycle for boat tickets to America.

The couple first settled in Toronto in an Eastern European immigrant neighborhood. Both found jobs quickly — she sewed uniforms while her husband was a bricklayer. After a year in Toronto, they set their sights on Chicago and arrived by bus in 1954. They both landed jobs their very first day.

By 1962, they moved with their children into the brick bungalow home they lived in for 48 years. With her love of children, Ms. Banks never seemed to mind raising her children without modern amenities or the support of relatives. She ran a daycare business in her home and held part-time jobs to help make ends meet. A dedicated "paperboy" for many years, alongside her children, she loved to start the day by first delivering and then reading the Chicago Tribune. She worked hard, and in doing so, instilled a strong work ethic in her children. She was proud of her children, all of whom attended college.

Her happiest days were spent with family sitting along the lakefront near Navy Pier and in her backyard. She loved gardening, spending many summers experimenting with different perennials, and finally settling on onions as her favorite. She was a superb cook and became the city of Chicago's #1 fan, loudly declaring it "the best." Chicago was her "Promised Land." Her smile, friends and family say, will be greatly missed.

Paula Zyto Banks is survived by her husband, Victor; her children, Michael (Andrea), Judy (James) Patterson, Monica (Robert) Zinn, Ben (Asami Imai-Banks), and Victor Jr. (Linda Dare); and her grandchildren, Maya, Aaron, Louis, Oliver, Ellie, Everett, Sarah, Graeme, and Liam. She was preceded in death by her son, David.

Reader Comments

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Steve Timble from Chicago  

Posted: May 3rd, 2012 9:55 PM

Banks Family - I am a friend of Victor, Jr's from back in the 80's. I met your father and heard great stories about your mother's love of the water, Chicago and her trips on the back of the Matchless. My deepest sympathies to all of you on your loss. Your mother was truly a special and remarkable person and her beautiful life is a standard we all should hope to achieve. Steve Timble

Judy Patterson from Los Angeles  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 2:28 AM

I will always admire my mom's strength and courage, and the way she struck out with my dad and made lives for themselves in a new land. My mom will always be an inspiration. I will never forget the kinds words she said to me shortly before she passed away. Remembering those words gives me peace.

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