October 2001

Bob Banaszak Welcomes New Challenges

by Joseph RADDER

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Bob Banaszak has a philosophy of life: “Family, Work and New Challenges” are in his judgement, the ingredients of a worthwhile and happy life.

Talk about new challenges, Bob received his private pilot’s license at age 60. This was accomplished during his busy work schedule with the Prince Rubber and Plastics Co. Inc. in Buffalo. He recently retired from Prince after 32 years.

Before he contracted prostate cancer he was a 15 gallon blood/platelet donor to the American Red Cross. Thanks to Roswell Park, in Bob’s words, “a terrific hospital and staff,” he has apparently been cured of the cancer, having passed his recent 5 year physical with flying colors. He stays fit on his Nordic Trac and by taking regular mall walks.

The biggest new challenge of all, that Bob and his wife Debbie undertook a few years ago, was the launching of an entirely new career. Doing business as A-E-I-Oh-U Kids, they are developing a program for children age 3 to 7 that provides unique learning experiences and adventure along a “Magical Jungle Trail”™. Toddlers and preschoolers will also enjoy the stories. The Banaszaks are publishing a series of children’s books introducing Magical Jungle Trail™ inhabitants...Elepherd, the bouncing elephant, Feathers, the rainbow bird, jungle playmates Moani and Hoku, Stripes the zebra, Gertee the giraffe, Mollee the monkey, Tuffy the rhino and Gordo the gorilla.

Each book is being colorfully illustrated by Patty Weber, a local artist whose talents have brought life to all of the delightful characters in the stories. We saw the first book, which was recently self-published, and it is a highly-professional production, sure to be a sales success. The books will be sold by numerous retailers. A Kids Ed Curriculum is also being developed. Children will be able to learn letter recognition, the alphabet, simple words, numbers and rhymes, and above all, have fun doing it. “Our goal is to help kids become knowledgeable, responsible and caring individuals,” Banaszak said.

This highly creative effort which displays the Banaszak’s remarkable imagination is a far cry from the workaday world Bob Banaszak left behind when he went on semi-retirement. He still goes into the office as a consultant a few days a week and recalls with gratitude his 32 years at Prince. He started in company sales, later worked as a plant manager and then became vice president of production for the company.

Bob Banaszak credits his grandparents, parents and teachers for his work ethic and family values. “I went to Public School #62 where one of the many values I learned was respect for property. You wouldn’t dare play on the grass. The school playground was for that,” he said.

Bob grew up in the Genesee-Moselle area of Buffalo’s east side. His father was a sheet metal worker at General Mills as was his grandfather. “My father also worked as a barber during the depression,” he said.

“I met my wife Debbie (Eleanor Winklemann) in grammar school and she’s been my best friend since,” Bob said smiling. Mrs. Banaszak is now semi-retired after 21 years with the Western New York Dental Group.

Bob and Debbie have been married 47 years. They have 4 children, 9 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. “We have a lot of birthdays to remember,” Debbie said, “but they’re all enjoyable.”

Bob attended Buffalo Technical High School on Clinton Street where he played on the football team. Later he took evening courses at ECC North, Canisius College and U.B. His active military service, from 1955 to 1957, included a 15 month assignment, with a top-secret/cryptographic clearance, to the U.S. Army’s European Headquarters (HACOM) in Heidelberg, Germany.

So many people of Bob’s generation credit their teachers for their success and Bob Banaszak is no exception. “They were so helpful,” he said. “It was a different kind of student-teacher relationship than you have today.”

To see the creative work Bob, Debbie and Patty are doing today with Magical Jungle Trail™ learning programs, it’s hard to believe he was once a machinist’s apprentice at Bethlehem Steel.

“We’re so busy we can’t find time for everything we want to do,” the Banaszaks told us. No wonder they look so young. As we’ve said many times on these pages, the best way to stay forever young is to stay forever active.

Joseph Radder is a freelance writer.


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