He was a man who loved to laugh, have fun, and always had a story to tell. That is how Dirk Bannister is being remembered by Airdrie's volunteering community.

Bannister, 78, passed away late last week and his loss is being felt across several local organizations that he dedicated countless hours to. Bannister served as a Board Member and Vice Chair of Volunteer Airdrie from November 2017 to January 2021, and according to David Maffitt, Chair of the board of Directors for the organization, Bannister was a force to be reckoned with.

"He was my right-hand man for a number of years and he was just an incredible individual to work with. He would tackle stuff that nobody else wanted to do; things like writing policy - that was his jam," Maffitt said. "But he didn't stop there. He was very active on the front lines, he would come out to our events, and participate as a volunteer not only as a board member but as an actual volunteer. You could ask him to do anything, and he would step up and do it."

Although Bannister retired several years ago from his duties with Volunteer Airdrie, Maffitt said that he was hoping to bring him back to be part of the Drive Happiness Program.

"He was such a character. He had tons of stories because of [how much] he did. He moved around a lot within Alberta. He knew so many people," he said. "He could find answers to questions that I may have by using his network of folks that he met. He just loved to be with people."

And when he wasn't writing policy, Bannister most enjoyed the annual highway cleanups that Volunteer Airdrie organized.

"He'd love to be the driver who would shuttle the volunteers out to their spots on the QEII highway and drop them off. He would drive literally all day; most of these cleanups take about three or four hours, but, he'd be in his car, driving back and forth between our main base of operations and then out to the people on the highway."

Bannister's dedication and volunteerism earned him numerous accolades and awards, including the Alice Modin Seniors Service Award, the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal and most recently the Northern Lights Volunteer Recognition Award.

"From building playgrounds in the inner city and providing books for those in need to volunteering at the local Women's Shelter and Calgary Drop-in Centre and helping generations of aspiring performers to share their talents at the Calgary Kiwanis Festival, Dirk's volunteerism is long and varied. His contributions over the years in support of the event are paying even greater dividends today as the Kiwanis Festival has grown to become the Calgary Performing Arts Festival," a biography on the province's website stated.

It also added that Bannister had nearly six decades of volunteering experience. 

"Dirk has lived by the words he has often shared with others: "Volunteering is the rent we pay for being a part of a privileged society in this best country in the world."

Bannister was also involved in other numerous organizations, including five decades with the Kiwanis Club of Airdrie, serving as a Board member with Community Links for several years, Soap for Hope YYC, the Sober Friends Society in Airdrie, as well as the Over 50 Club.

In 2023, the Airdrie community grappled with the sudden loss of a beloved Airdrie resident Keith Wilkinson, who like Bannister was well-known in the community; Maffitt said that both Bannister and Wilkinson's legacies and lives, and now their absence, are difficult to fathom.

"They're exemplary human beings and role models for our youth and the rest of us. I think that's what makes Airdrie so special; is that we do have these role models that people can look up to and say, 'I want to contribute to this community the same way Keith and Dirk did.'"

Bannister's family announced his passing on his Facebook page over the weekend.

Since then, the other organizations Bannister served with have also sent out tributes via social media to Bannister and his life legacy. 

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