Elizabeth J. Bannon 1929-2021 | News, Sports, Jobs



BOARDMAN – Elizabeth “Betty” Bannon, accomplished musician, mother, grandmother and longtime community volunteer, passed away peacefully at home on Friday, September 17, 2021. She was 91 years old.

Born October 19, 1929 in Youngstown, Betty Jane Dimenno was the daughter of John Dimenno, general foreman at Republic Steel, and Domenica Ferraro Dimenno, housewife.

For her seventh birthday, Betty Jane was given an accordion and quickly began playing in the front yard of her grandmother’s house in the Brier Hill neighborhood of Youngstown on Sunday afternoon. She has won a series of local competitions and has given recitals with legendary conductor Tee Ross at the Strauss-Hirshberg Music Center. At the age of 16, she entered the American Accordion Association’s annual competition in Chicago, winning the 1946 National Championship for her performance as “Malaguena.”

She attended South High School where she played the accordion in the 14-piece swing group and met her future husband, Charles J. Bannon, the leader of the group. After graduating from high school in 1947, she was invited to participate in Ted Mac’s “Original Amateur Hour” in 1948 in New York City.

She attended Youngstown State University, the first member of her family to attend college, and graduated with honors in 1951 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Minor in Spanish. That same year, she and Charles married and they had three children, Lisa, Charles John and Breen.

In 1955, she was hired to play the accordion for the Wilkens Amateur Hour, a daily half-hour variety show on KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. Sponsored by Wilkens Jewelry Co., the show’s theme song was “EZ-Credit” and the show’s all-girl group was dubbed “EZC Ranch Gals.”

Charismatic and strong-willed, Betty expressed herself through her music and loved nothing more than performing in front of a crowd, whether in an official concert hall or a local nursing home.

She was invited to play accordion with Luciano Pavarotti for a concert in Albany, NY, while he was touring the United States in 1999. She was most active in the local community and regularly played the piano and playing the accordion in schools, civic groups, churches and nursing homes until her 80s, bringing joy to all she touched with her music.

She could play any song by ear – from Beethoven to Billy Joel – and would captivate audiences when she sat down at the keyboard. She loved to travel and sought out reputable restaurants, often approaching the pianist during her break, offering a tip, and discussing her music knowingly. Inevitably he would invite her to play a tune and she would feign shyness: “Oh, maybe just one,” she would say. Then she flooded the room with passionate renditions of “Rhapsody in Blue”, “Night and Day” and “Watch What Happens”, as people stood up and applauded. She memorably hijacked restaurants in Paris, Rome, Milan, Capri, Los Angeles and New York as well as the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania on the occasion of her 90th birthday.

She loved to cook, especially specialties from her Italian heritage like manicotti and fra-oons, a pastry from her father’s village in Molise, Italy. She taught her grandchildren how to make pizza and hosted great dinners for family and friends for over 50 years. She was an expert seamstress and won several blue ribbons at the Canfield Fair for quilts and embroidery projects.

She has been a member of numerous music and community organizations including the New Music Society at Youngstown State University, the American Federation of Musicians Local 86-242, and the Women’s Committee for Children’s Concerts for over 30 years. She has been actively involved in St. Charles Borromeo Church in Boardman for over 40 years, performing Mass with the Music Ministry and teaching CCD. She regularly played the piano at Boardman Rotary and Youngstown Rotary and was a volunteer and musician for the St. Elizabeth Hospital Junior Guild in the 1970s and 1980s. After obtaining her teaching certificate in the early 1980s, she taught music in the schools of the city of Youngstown.

She is survived by her daughter, Lisa Bannon-Steinmetz (George); and his son, Breen O. Bannon (Elizabeth); five grandchildren, Adam Bannon and John Bannon, and Nell, Nicholas and John Steinmetz; and a great-grandson, Jack Bannon.

She was preceded in her death by her mother; father; sister, Joann Dimenno Fitzer; and his son, Charles John Bannon.

The family would like to thank their caregivers, Cheryl and Pam, for their compassion and support over the past few months.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Charles Church.

Call hours will be 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 23, 2021 at Higgins-Reardon Funeral Home, 3701 Starr Center Drive, Canfield and 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. on Friday, September 24, 2021, in St. Charles. Borromeo Parish, Boardman, followed by Christian funeral mass at 11 a.m.

Interment will take place at Forest Lawn Memorial Park at a later date.

The obituary can be viewed and condolences sent to www.higgins-eardon.com.

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