"We believe that we don’t succeed unless the people around us succeed and the health of the planet not only doesn’t suffer, but is improved by our work."
– Ben Banky
On December 12, Ben Banky’s life came to a sudden and tragic end when he was killed at his company’s Christmas party. Forty-year-old Ben was co-founder, president and CEO of TallGrass Distribution. He was a friend to many and a kind and compassionate boss to those who worked for him. He will be sorely missed. The following letter from TallGrass pays homage to Ben’s enormous contribution both as a friend and company leader and speaks of the impact Ben had on all who knew him.
It is difficult to adequately express in words the shock and pain we all feel from the sudden death of Ben Banky, our leader and friend. Ben will be deeply missed by all who knew him. We will miss his energy and enthusiasm, his generosity and his kindness, his extraordinary wit and his sheer brilliance.
In this time of crisis, we have been receiving an extraordinary outpouring of love and respect from across Canada and around the world. Thank you so much for all your calls and notes of sympathy and support; they are deeply appreciated. We’ve also been receiving some hilarious memories of Ben, and those are very much appreciated as well.
We would like to express that all of us at TallGrass are determined to carry forward Ben’s vision and legacy. Our small company has suffered an enormous blow, and it is going to be difficult to move forward. But move forward we shall, because it’s what Ben would have wanted, and because it’s simply the right thing to do.
The TallGrass family has been gathering daily. This is a very tough time but there is much comfort in each other’s company, and we are supporting each other as much as we can. We also talked about what we should do about going back to work, and we collectively decided that we will honour Ben by continuing to build the business he helped create. In that spirit, TallGrass has reopened. We have held a ceremony of purification and remembrance here in our offices and a room is now dedicated to Ben as shrine of remembrance and peace.
Once again, thank you for all your support and generosity.
The TallGrass family
On winter solstice, the longest night of the year, hundreds trekked through Vancouver’s biggest snowstorm to honour Ben Banky at his memorial tribute at Richards on Richards. People travelled from Hornby Island, Calgary, Toronto and L.A. to join together in this remembrance and celebration of Ben’s amazing life and legacy. There wasn’t an empty chair in the house; both the floor and balcony were packed. Throughout the evening, friends and colleagues shared their memories of Ben in an outpouring of appreciation for one so talented, gregarious and loved. Natasha Fahel, a TallGrass employee from Toronto, offered the following eulogy. – Joseph Roberts
Good evening everyone
My name is Natasha, and I, along with these lovely ladies am here on behalf of Ben’s TallGrass family. We want to start by thanking Linda [Ben’s wife] for granting us joint custody of Ben and bringing him so much happiness in the last several years. We want you to know that you are forever a member of the TallGrass family. Of course, we extend the same welcome to Ben’s family as well.
If we have to find a silver lining in all of this, then it would be that this has brought an already close family closer together. As well, it brought us closer to our extended family in the community and in the health food industry, something that Ben strived to do everyday at TallGrass. We want to thank everyone for their overwhelming outpouring of love and support during this heartbreaking time.
Ben was a remarkable man, who lit up any room he walked into. His happiness was infectious and if his mood didn’t get you, then one of his many stories would. He always chose the high road even if it wasn’t the easiest or the most comfortable path. He was a leader who believed in the good in all of us. Ben had the integrity that all of us aspire to have and took the time to make everyone he met feel special, even if it was just to use your desk scissors to cut his toenails.
As a boss, as with every role in his life, Ben inspired us to do better and to be better. When speaking about him in the last week, the word mentor has come up frequently. But it was the way he mentored that made him so great. He didn’t just want TallGrass to grow and be successful; he wanted all of us to be, as individuals. When he taught us something, it wasn’t just for the benefit of the company, but for each of us to learn and grow from it. But don’t take my word for it, take his. The following is an excerpt from a letter that that Ben wrote just last week, about his vision for TallGrass and its future:
“Traditionally, business has only looked at profit as a motive. We believe that we don’t succeed unless the people around us succeed and the health of the planet not only doesn’t suffer, but is improved by our work. The products we are engaging in selling are some of the most socially responsible out there. Through them, we are supporting healthy lifestyles, preventative medicine, organic agriculture and other businesses that share the same values. People are what make a company. We all need to be nurtured, given opportunities and made to feel both wanted and supported. People want to have fun with their work, but they also want to know that they are respected both for the work they do and as fellow citizens. Part of the fun of building a business is imagining what it will look like in the future and making that dream come true.”
If Matt and Ben were a married couple – contrary to industry rumours, they weren’t – then Matt is our father figure and Ben our “mama bear.” Ben was the nurturer, the one we went to when Matt said no.
TallGrass isn’t just a place that we all work. Matt and Ben chose each of us to be part of the TallGrass family. We are who we are because of what they created and the vision that they shared together.
We will honour Ben and his legacy by working with Matt to continue building the dream they shared, with our strengthened sense of passion and our newly inspired purpose.
Ben was our Boss, our mentor and our friend. It was an honour to know him, a privilege to work for him and his acquaintance will always be one of our life’s greatest gifts.
We love you Ben.
Julie Daniluk from The Big Carrot in Toronto remembers Ben
Ben charged into life. He lived like every day counted and made a greater impact in 40 years than many make in 80.
He loved to celebrate every occasion and was one of the most generous people in our industry. He just loved to give people an experience they would remember and for that we will never forget. Never forget how much he cared.
I remember him telling me the story of how he got his name. His grandfather came to North America, saw a movie poster and decided he liked the name “Banky” so much he changed their last name. The alliteration of his name made him sound like a great detective of an old English novel. It suited him perfectly because he was larger than life.
He started every statement in a CHFA board meeting with “ I just have to ask.” This exacting need to “flush out the detail” pushed the board to ensure all issues were exhausted before we decided a fair course. He has pushed us all to be better members. We will have to work harder to ask the tough questions that just came naturally to him.
I appreciate that he pushed so hard. He worked hard and played hard, but to many of us on the outside it was hard to know where one ended and the other began because so many of his clients and competitors were good friends. He brought a lightness of being to our lives, but in a heartbeat was also able to address the most serious issue with sensitivity and razor-sharp observation.
How will I remember him?
I will always order the good wine. I will always pay someone a compliment when it comes to mind. I will try to see the humour in the day even when it is grey like a winter day in Vancouver. I will charge in to a situation if I feel it is unjust…That’s the only way I can learn from this brave and brash bandleader, Benjamin Banky.
Remembering Ben Banky – An industry pays a tribute
The CHFA has set up an interactive site to pay tribute to one of its greatest champions. Visit the CHFA homepage at www.chfa.ca and click on the button; you’ll be redirected to the page where you can read posts from fellow colleagues and can comment on any post. To submit a post for possible inclusion, please email email@example.com. All comments are moderated by the CHFA.
TallGrass Ben Banky trust
In honour of Ben, a scholarship trust has been created to support progressive business and social entrepreneurship. We have received many requests for information as to how donations can be made to support this project, and we are very happy to be able to pass along the information: In lieu of flowers, the Ben Banky Trust is at CIBC, account# 00010/81-42998. Donations for the trust can also be sent C/O TallGrass Distribution Ltd., 40 5th Ave E, Vancouver, BC, V5T 1G8.