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Reta Banks

Reta Banks

Captain Reta Banks was a legend in her own right as one of the first and most colourful women skippers on Fisherman's Wharf. She was born in Victoria, Australia, and she passed away on June 4, 2013 at the age of 105.


She held the rank of Past Commander of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Reta Banks was known by the name Captain Ducky. Until her retirement from industry, she was a fashion consultant with I. Magnin's where she advised many celebrities.


As a child, Reta was a champion swimmer. In her teen years, she worked in Sydney as a fashion model. The Second World War was ending when she left Sydney on a military hospital ship repatriating wounded American soldiers. The ship came to San Francisco and she never left our fair city. Reta became an American citizen, and soon was a celebrity on Fisherman's Wharf, establishing a place for women in the male dominated sports fishing industry. Captain Reta Banks was one of three women (at that time) to obtain a Captains Certificate on vessels up to 100 ton. Her good friend Marjorie Tefft the owner of Marge's Barge was another. The third is Jacky Douglas, still active owner of the 50 foot vessel Wacky Jacky.


Reta was a survivor of breast cancer, and after a double mastectomy, she urged the fleet to call her "Twiggy." In 1981, Reta developed a weakening condition that was diagnosed as Lou Gehrig's disease. When everyone was about to count her out, she miraculously recovered. Her doctor, Robert Miller, believes that her extraordinarily positive attitude led to her recovery.


Over the years Reta met many famous people. She was close friends with Vice Admiral Larkin, commander of the 12th district Coast Guard. Others included Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe and another who became a good friend, the Duke - John Wayne.


She was a truly extraordinary human being. At her request, no memorial service will be held. Donations may be made in her memory to the ALS Association, PO Box 565, Agoura Hills, CA 91376



Published in San Francisco Chronicle on June 16, 2013
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