SHOW LOW — The direct route from Providence, Rhode Island to Show Low, Arizona is 2,438.2 miles. Though Art Bans did not take the direct route to Show Low from Providence, he did choose it as his final destination in 2003, and the community is a better place for that choice.

Bans was born in 1939 in Providence and at 17 ½, he left to join the Air Force and has had many interesting stops along the way.

Bans father died when he was 7 years old and his mother’s brothers helped raise him.

Around the age of 12 Bans wanted to be a pilot. At 16, he learned about Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, an American military general who received the Medal of Honor for his aviation heroics during World War II. He said he believes having an uncle who was a prisoner of war (POW) held by the Germans during that war, another uncle who was wounded in the Pacific, and another uncle who trained troops during the Korean Conflict were his motivators.

“I wanted to keep the tradition going,” said Bans.

In high school he played the trumpet. His mother managed to pay $3 per week for a half hour lesson with Julio Tancredi who played with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra. Once while attending a school performance with six trumpet players, his mother could not see her son, but was able to identify him by watching for the foot that moved to keep beat with the music — a Tancredi trait.

Bans was also in a band called the Crusaders, and he and a number of his friends worked on flathead engines. In those days you could find a 1930 or 1940 car at the junk yard for $50 and fix it up.

In the Air Force, he attained the highest classification as a jet engine mechanic by the time he was 18 years old. He went from Amarillo to D.C. to a temporary duty post at Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where older mechanics did not like or understand how he knew so much at his age about jet engines.

“I could work on five different jets. I cared to learn. I started them up every morning and I loved it, but after six years, that was enough,” said Bans.

Getting out of the service in 1960, Bans spent five years working on jet engines before opening an Atlantic Richfield gas station in Hartford, Connecticut, where they pumped your gas, washed your windshield and worked on cars. He was making about $200 a week which was really good money back then. When it started snowing in 1968, he made the decision that it was too cold to be working on cars anymore.

Bans had an aunt in Studio City, California so he headed west to check it out. Two months later, he moved his wife and two boys to sunny California.

He bought a ranch in Chatsworth and became known as the Italian cowboy.

Years earlier Bans’s mother had taken him to see Gene Autry who was on tour after the war. He talked about his ranch and Bans said he thought to himself, “that would be something to do.”

And, now he was doing it. His ranch was like a farm. He had homing pigeons, steers, rabbits, goats and raised Great Danes. His daughter was born in 1970. His neighbors were Lorne Greene, James Brolin , Barbara Stanwick, and Roy and Dale Evans.

He started out with an Arabian horse but quickly switched to quarter horses. He dealt with Bing Crosby who was big into horses, and learned a lot about them from a Blackfoot Lakota rancher. Bans got so big into the horses that he paid $2,000 — unheard of in those days — for a quarter horse. He had many and in 1982 won the belt buckle for the American Quarter Horse of the Year. He broke horses the old fashioned way and then put a saddle on them. When one of his prize horses met with an unfortunate accident while at a training facility in 1986 and had to be put down, Bans said he cried like a baby and that was the end.

An admitted workaholic, while ranching he also worked in the furniture business from 1968 until 2001, having owned three locations outright.

In 2003, he and his wife Mary started looking for a place to retire. His sister and brother law used to come to Show Low so they made the trip in October 2003 to take a look. They became residents two months later.

The first person Bans met was Conrad Monroe who was involved in Main Street, the Over the Hill Gang and the Rim Country Cruisers car clubs. Monroe quickly lured him into helping Main Street bring back the rodeo and then help launch Show Low Days with the chamber. He then volunteered as the representative and class trainer for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) for five years, helped at the Maverick magazine and volunteered at the Navajo County Family Advocacy Center.

The number of volunteer hours and contacts Bans made for each of the organizations he gave his time to cannot be measured in dollars — although he helped them do that as well.

In 2014, Bans was presented an award at the 37th Annual Hon Kachina Volunteer Awards in Scottsdale for his dedication and service to the Navajo County Family Advocacy Center. It is a statewide program which began in 1977 to recognize the achievement of outstanding Arizona volunteers.

Bans did not stop after getting that award. At 82, with no bucket list, he is still volunteering.

He did a six-week tour of the places he wanted to go in 1982 which included going all the way back to Cape Cod where he fished as a kid with his grandparents.

“I did more in this town than I have done in all my life. It is just going out and trying to help. I ran around getting donations and setting up shows and everybody loved it and enjoyed it, and I enjoyed that.

“I have met and listened to the Code Talkers and been to Window Rock and every morning I get to wake up and to live each day and to help people. When I was a kid everybody helped each other,” said Bans.

If you have not met Bans, you more than likely have seen his 1964 Blue El Camino around town — it used to be purple but he likes change. If you should see that car, wave, because you will be acknowledging a volunteer who has made a big difference in the White Mountain community.

Author Mitch Albom said, “... there are no random acts, that we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.” That being the case, here in the White Mountains there are people you need to meet and places you need to know about it. And, on the last Friday of each month, I will connect you with some of those as I go ‘Round the Mountain.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.