To many, Karan Day-Banker was simply known as “Mom” or “Mama Calhoun.”
Whether she was baking goodies for neighborhood kids or offering friendly smiles as she chatted with the regular members she helped at the Calhoun Beach Club, Day-Banker was always a constant source of support and strength.
She died Sept. 14 at age 76 due to complications from cancer.
Day-Banker was born July 27, 1944, in Minneapolis, one of 13 children. She suffered from rheumatic fever and polio as a child. Because of financial difficulties, she and her siblings were sent to live with family members, with Day-Banker spending time off and on at a family farm where she developed a love of animals. She later graduated from Central High School in Minneapolis.
Day-Banker was known as a pragmatic, hard worker who did what she needed to do to make ends meet. After graduation, Day-Banker worked a variety of jobs, including as a waitress in Wayzata. She was a single mother, raising her two children in south Minneapolis holding down waitressing and child-care jobs during the day and cleaning at night.
Day-Banker also served as the caretaker of the fourplex where she lived. “It was the typical house where everyone was welcome,” said Day-Banker’s son, Dan Day. “It was always a safe haven.”
His mother would make homemade cinnamon rolls and other baked goods for neighborhood kids and offer them hand-me-down clothes or a place to crash if needed.
“A lot of people, they really didn’t know my mom’s name,” said Susan Schanke, her daughter. “They just called her mom.”
In the early 1990s, Day-Banker started working at the Calhoun Beach Club, off Lake Street on the north side of the lake now known as Bde Maka Ska, and had various jobs through the years. Until early this year, Day-Banker cleaned the lockers, washed laundry, made refreshments and completed other everyday maintenance jobs at the historic apartment and athletic club building.
She reported to the club almost every morning at 4 a.m. to get everything ready for when the doors opened, said Cari Tschida, general manager of the Calhoun Beach Club. “She was just a fixture for so many years,” Tschida said.
Day-Banker often went above and beyond to help members, sometimes ironing their shirts if she knew they had meetings, Tschida said. “Her personality was kind of like a mama bear, like the matriarch of the club,” Tschida said.
Day-Banker remembered members’ names and was always very friendly, said co-worker Nancy Beck. “All of the members loved her, and when she wasn’t there they always asked, ‘Where’s Karan?’ ”
In her spare time, Day-Banker enjoyed spending time with the family’s pets, working in her gardens, fishing and baking. Her loved ones said she will be remembered as a resilient person who was always open to helping and comforting others.
“Always be nice,” Dan Day said about lessons learned from his mother. “You don’t know what other people are dealing with.”
Day-Banker continued to work until the Beach Club temporarily closed in March to adhere to state mandates during the coronavirus outbreak. The club, which has since reopened, plans to close permanently to the public at the end of September. The building’s owner also has announced it would remove the name “Calhoun” from the property because of John Caldwell Calhoun’s legacy as an ardent defender of slavery.
She is survived by her husband, Rullo Banker, children Dan Day and Susan Schanke, and grandchildren. Services have been held.