“It’s going to be fun, and it’s going to be enjoyable and it’s raising money for a good cause. And it won’t be terribly long, so there you go,” Trish Banighen said ahead of a choir show fundraising money for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
It’s a description that could fit many of her charitable causes. A side effect of a conversation with Banighen is being simultaneously inspired by and invited to the next several events she’s participating in. Although she modestly shares credit for her efforts with various other members, Banighen is involved in an impressive amount of extracurricular activities.
“I try to keep busy,” she said with a laugh.
Banighen has been singing since before she can remember but recalls singing “Buttermilk Sky” at three years old. She was in a talent show in kindergarten, and since then estimates that she has sung in 10 choirs.
Currently, she is a member of not one, but two choirs. Banighen has also been the Chair of Council for the United Church for three years.
When asked how she decided to become the chair, Banighan laughed and said, “I got railroaded. Everybody was taking turns and finally, somebody said, ‘I think you’d be good at it’ and I don’t know how to say no very easily.”
Five days a week Banighen’s mornings are spent exercising with aquafit, the walking club or Tai Chi. When she’s sitting (almost) still, she sews and makes quilts for fundraisers such as the Friends of the Library auction and the upcoming church bazaar. She’s on a team for the SPCA quiz night, one of her favourite nights of the year. During dragon boat season, she spends a lot of time on the water. During election season, she works at the NDP constituency office.
Sundays are for church, “of course,” she said.
Banighen is known by most in Prince Rupert as their former Grade 6 or 7 teacher and school librarian. Although she retired in 2008 after 30 years of teaching, many of her past students still approach her in town.
“They still speak to me, so I guess I did something right,” she said with a laugh.
She may have stopped teaching formally, but Banighen has never stopped learning.
“There are so many other things I’d love to know more about,” she said.
In spite of her busy schedule, Banighen also has a number of things she wishes she had done — one of them being learning how to ride a Harley Davidson. She’d also like to volunteer more with the schools and daycares, where she used to give puppet shows for the kids.
A Texan originally — as proved by her “don’t mess with Texas” mug — Banighen moved to Canada because she had read about a school north of Selkirk, Manitoba, that “sounded like a frontier experience” with dog sledding, canoeing and snowshoeing. She got the job and made the jump across the border. That was in 1968. She met her husband there and eventually moved to ‘God’s country’ with the B.C. native. They split when their son was two years old.
Banighen first moved to Prince Rupert in 1981 — as is the case with many — for a job. With Tim, her then-four-year-old son, in tow, Banighen said she was too busy being a single mom to be very involved with the community. Once Tim went to college at 18, she had more time on her hands, which is not something you’ll catch her saying today.
While the Texan would like to have better access to affordable transportation to visit relatives, she’s unlikely to leave Prince Rupert aside from vacations. Prince Rupert “suits me,” she said.
“I’ve got all my roots here.”
Of the Oct. 15 foodgrains fundraising concert, Banighen said, “There have been so many rehearsals, we’re going to sing our little hearts out then go home and collapse.”