Willie Banks was born in Evergreen, Ala., on July 14, 1936, to the union of Thomas and Louella Banks. He passed peacefully on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. He was the 11th of 16 children.

Willie accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior at an early age, and was baptized in June of 1945. He received his formal education through the Alabama school system, and was employed at General Casting Corporation in Milwaukee, Wisc. for 22 years.

Willie met the love of his life, Ella (Cookie Upton) Pitts, formerly of Sweetwater, and they were united in holy matrimony on Oct. 4, 1980. In this union, he helped raise three stepsons: Lewis, Barry and Andre. His compassion for children led Ella and Willie to become foster parents. They also opened a community daycare center called Tiny Tots, where they provided services to parents who were attending school or working.

Willie’s love for humanity always led him to support the needs of others. He was a loving and kind man, and a devoted husband. He was a member of True Heart Missionary Baptist Church in Milwaukee, Wisc. When he was unable to attend church, he would sit for hours and listen to his favorite Gospel singers, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Rev. James Cleveland.

Willie loved life, and you could hear him every morning thanking Jesus for another day. He enjoyed a good home-cooked meal and dining out at his favorite restaurants. Some of his favorite foods were grits, shrimp, lobster, catfish, gumbo and sweet potato pie.

He enjoyed traveling to places like New York, Nevada, Mississippi, Tennessee and the Bahamas. He loved fishing off the banks of the Tennessee River for catfish, and would tell anyone that would listen how many fish he had caught and how big they were. He also collected baseball cards as a hobby.

Preceded in death by: his parents, Thomas and Louella Banks; brothers, James Luster, Brad Lee, Thomas, Clarence, Travis, Robert Lee, and Johnnie Banks; sisters, Florence, Ruth, Annie Mae, Dela Mae, and Ida Mae Banks; brothers-in-law, Ralph Virgil Upton, Clifford Delmer Hardy; sister-in-law, Barbara Jean (Junior) Bradley.

He leaves to honor and cherish his precious memory: his beloved wife of 40 years, Ella (Upton) Banks;

Stepsons, Andre Pitts and Lewis Edwards of Milwaukee, Wisc., Charles Edwards of Knoxville;

Step-grandchildren, Alaysha Pitts and Charles James of Milwaukee, Wisc., Marcus Hill of Philadelphia, Pa., Marcus Buford of Orlando, Fla.;

Siblings, Idee Banks Yates of Milwaukee, Wisc., Lula Bell Banks Pope and Carrie Bell Banks Edwards of Perris, Calif.;

Brothers and sisters-in-law, John H. (Saundra) Upton of Nashville, Dorothy M. Upton, Dewitt (Connie) Upton, Joe Edward (Sandra) Hardy, Emma L. Ellison, and Larry D. Hardy, all of Sweetwater, Madeline (Willie) Thornton of Milwaukee, Wisc.;

A host of nieces, nephews, family, and friends.

Visitation began at noon on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, with a memorial service that followed at 1 p.m. in the chapel of Leon L. Williamson Funeral Home in Milwaukee, Wisc., with Pastor Andrew Calhoun officiating. Service with interment followed at Graceland Cemetery in Milwaukee.