CHICAGO — Ernie Banks, the beloved Chicago Cubs great who once said he wanted to have his ashes scattered at Wrigley Field, is at the center of a battle over his remains as his estranged wife has gone to court to prevent a longtime friend of "Mr. Cub" from having his remains cremated.
The dispute involving the most famous player in Cubs history was confirmed Friday by Howard Golden, an attorney representing the estranged wife, Elizabeth Banks.
"Suddenly, it came up," he said. "It's unfortunate."
According to court records, Elizabeth Banks filed a petition to prevent a woman who describes herself in the documents as a longtime friend of Ernie Banks, his caretaker and the executor of Banks' estate from having him cremated. The woman, Regina Rice, asserted her rights to dispose of Banks' remains after his death last month at the age of 83, according to documents filed by Elizabeth Banks' attorneys on Feb. 2.
"Petitioner (Elizabeth Banks) is without recourse and shall suffer irreparable damage should Regina's desires to cremate the remains of the decedent be granted," she wrote.
Elizabeth Banks has successfully thus far prevented the body from being cremated, Golden said.
But it was unclear where exactly the body was taken. According to Golden, Banks is buried at Graceland Cemetery, just blocks from Wrigley Field. But a person who answered the phone at Graceland but declined to give her name said Banks is not buried there. And Dave Babczak, manager of Donnellan Funeral Home, which handled the logistics surrounding the Jan. 31 funeral service, declined to comment on the dispute, saying only that Banks' remains were no longer at the funeral home.
In court documents obtained by The Associated Press, there is no mention that Banks wanted his ashes scattered at the ballpark where he played his entire 19-year Hall of Fame career. But over the years, families of devoted fans have slipped into the ballpark to scatter the ashes of loved ones who spent their lives rooting for the Cubs and Banks, who on at least one occasion years ago, famously told a local newspaper reporter that after he died he wanted "my ashes spread out over Wrigley Field — with the wind blowing out."
The Cubs declined to comment on the dispute. Rice did not answer her phone and her attorney did not return calls for comment.
The documents are included in what is a larger dispute over control of the Banks estate.
Included in the file are documents in which Rice claims Banks was attempting to end his marriage to Elizabeth Banks, his fourth wife. The documents include a petition for divorce, signed by Ernie Banks, in which the Hall of Famer seeks to end his marriage because "irreconcilable differences have caused irretrievable breakdown of the marriage" and that Elizabeth Banks had "committed extreme and repeated acts of mental cruelty upon petitioner (Ernie Banks)."
A document titled "Last Will and Testament" and signed by Ernie Banks on Oct. 17 of last year says he was "in the process of finalizing divorce" from his wife and that he had appointed Rice as the executor of his will. Nowhere does Banks discuss what he wants done with his remains.
The dispute appears to be far from over. The attorney for Elizabeth Banks at one point disputes the validity of the will, saying only that it was "allegedly signed" by Ernie Banks.