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Late Baltimore County Fire Chief Banister honored with foundation

An antique fire engine, driven by Josh Christina and with passenger Dawn Banister, at the April 17 memorial service for former Baltimore County Fire Chief Elwood “Woody” Banister.
An antique fire engine, driven by Josh Christina and with passenger Dawn Banister, at the April 17 memorial service for former Baltimore County Fire Chief Elwood “Woody” Banister. (Courtesy Photo/Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Co.)

The two most important things to retired Fire Chief Elwood “Woody” Banister were his family and the fire service, so it was fitting that family and members of the Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Co. (CVFC) and the Baltimore County Fire Department gathered for a memorial to honor his memory on April 17.

Following a service at Towson United Methodist Church, a processional of Cockeysville and Baltimore County fire equipment made the journey to the CVFC for a luncheon before a private committal service at Sherwood Episcopal Church in Cockeysville.

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The procession was led by Chief Banister’s antique engine, driven by his grandson Josh Christina and daughter, Dawn Banister, and followed by Engine 391, driven by his nephew, Kevin Banister.

Chief Banister and his wife, Boots, both passed away within one week of each other from COVID-19 in late 2020.

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Chief Banister had a decorated 38-year career, which culminated with his appointment as the chief of the Baltimore County Fire Department in 1990. He was also an active member of the Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Co. for more than 66 years.

During his career, Chief Banister was a leader at the state and national levels, as well as a fierce protector of the history and traditions of the fire service. He was fluent and skilled in virtually every aspect of the profession and established the honor guard, the annual Baltimore County Fire Service memorial service and the Fire Museum in the lobby of the Public Safety Building.

Chief Banister had a profound impact on so many in the fire service. According to Josh Christina, many of the firefighters who reached out to the family after hearing of Chief Banister’s death shared similar remembrances of him, remarking that the chief did things the right way and inspired them to be better. His legacy will resonate through time.

Josh Christina also has established the Chief Elwood Banister Memorial Foundation to honor his grandfather and carry on his commitment to raise needed funds for fire companies.

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Josh is a local Baltimore singer/songwriter and Nashville recording artist and says the foundation will be “Fighting Fire with Music,” as it brings together local communities for concerts.

The money raised will be used to fulfill the mission of the foundation, which is to assist fire companies with their fundraising efforts, with direct financial assistance and to support those who are interested in joining the fire service through scholarships.

In his announcement introducing the foundation, Josh noted: “My grandfather recognized the dependence of volunteer fire companies on fundraising. With this foundation, I hope to continue his vision to raise funds for fire companies. He was truly a legendary figure and valued the history and tradition of the fire service.”

The inaugural concert for the foundation will be on Saturday, July 31, at the Upperco Fire Co., featuring Nashville recording artist and “The Voice” contestant Kate Hay and Josh Christina.

To learn more about the foundation and concert, go to www.joshchristinamusic.com.

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