BOARDMAN, Ohio (MyValleyTributes) – Elizabeth “Betty” Bannon, an accomplished musician, mother, grandmother and lifelong community volunteer, died at home peacefully Friday, September 17, 2021. She was 91.
Born October 19, 1929, in Youngstown, Betty Jane Dimenno was the daughter of John Dimenno, a general foreman at Republic Steel and Domenica Ferraro Dimenno, a homemaker.
For her seventh birthday, Betty Jane received an accordion and soon began performing in the front yard of her grandmother’s house in the Brier Hill neighborhood of Youngstown on Sunday afternoons. She won a series of local competitions and performed recitals with legendary band leader 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 of “Malaguena.”
She attended South High School where she played accordion in the 14-piece swing band and met her future husband, Charles J. Bannon, the leader of the band. After graduating from high school in 1947, she was invited to appear on Ted Mac’s “Original Amateur Hour” in 1948 in New York City. She attended Youngstown State University, the first member of her family to go to college and graduated with honors in 1951 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music and a minor in Spanish. The same year, she and Charles married and they would have three children, Lisa, Charles John and Breen.
In 1955, she was hired to play 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 all-female band on the show was dubbed the “E.Z.C. Ranch Gals.”
Charismatic and strong willed, Betty expressed herself through her music and loved nothing more than performing in front of a crowd, whether at a formal concert hall or a local nursing home.
She was invited to perform on accordian with Luciano Pavarotti for a concert in Albany, New York, while he was on tour in the U.S. in 1999. She was most active in the local community and played piano and accordion regularly at schools, civic groups, churches and nursing homes well into her 80s, bringing joy to everyone 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 would seek out noted restaurants, often sidling up to the piano player on his break, offering a tip and knowledgeably discussing his music. Inevitably, he’d invite her to play a tune and she’d feign timidity, “Oh, maybe just one,” she’d say. Then she’d take over the room with passionate renditions of “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Night and Day” and “Watch What Happens,” while people stood and cheered. 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 her 90th birthday.
She loved to cook, especially specialities 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 pizzelles and hosted big 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 needlepoint projects.
She was 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 was actively involved with St. Charles Borromeo Church in Boardman for over 40 years, playing Mass with the music ministry and teaching CCD.
She played piano regularly at the Boardman Rotary and Youngstown Rotary and was a volunteer and musician for St. Elizabeth Hospital Junior Guild in the 1970s and 1980s.
After receiving her teaching certificate in the early 1980s, she taught music in the Youngstown city schools.
She is survived by her daughter, Lisa Bannon-Steinmetz (George); son, Breen O. Bannon (Elizabeth); five grandchildren, Adam Bannon and John Bannon and Nell, Nicholas and John Steinmetz and one great-grandson, Jack Bannon.
She was preceded in death by her mother; father; sister, Joann Dimenno Fitzer and her son, Charles John Bannon.
The family would like to thank her caregivers, Cheryl and Pam, for their compassion and support over the past several months.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Charles Church.
Calling hours will be held from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Thursday, September 23, 2021, at Higgins-Reardon Funeral Home, 3701 Starr Centre Drive, Canfield and 10:00 – 10:45 a.m. Friday, September 24, 2021, at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Boardman, followed by a Mass of Christian burial at 11:00 a.m.
Burial will take place in Forest Lawn Memorial Park at a later date.
Condolences can be sent at www.higgins-reardon.com.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Elizabeth “Betty” Bannon, please visit our floral store.
A television tribute will air Wednesday, September 22 at the following approximate times: 5:17 a.m. on WKBN, 8:39 a.m. on FOX, 5:21 p.m. on WYTV and 6:35 p.m. on MyYTV.