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Banke, Arris Gordon

Name: Banke, Arris Gordon, Aviation Cadet, USNR

Local address: 64 Wycoff Street, Matawan, NJ

Arris, born October 1, 1923 in Matawan, was the only child of Adolph Adam Banke (1886-1968) and Maud Bogart McChesney (1883-1972). He was a talented musician from a musical family – father Adolph, a clothing salesman, was active in the First Baptist Church of Matawan choir and taught piano, while his mother Maud was the church’s organist. Arris’ grandfather, Adolph Banke, Sr, was a musician in the 2nd US Infantry Regiment prior to and during the Civil War. Arris wrote the music for the Matawan High School’s Alma Mater in 1939, which is still performed at the graduations at the school.

Graduating from Matawan High School in 1939, he attended the Newark College of Engineering for three years and while not at school was employed at Hanson, Van Winkle and Munning Company on Broad Street.

Prior to enlistment in the navy he completed the Civilian Pilot Training Course and graduated at the top of his class. In the fall of 1942, he went to pre-flight training at Chapel Hill, NC and then to navigation school in Hollywood, Fl.

On April 24, 1943, his last training flight prior to his graduation and commissioning as a Naval Aviator, the Beechcraft SNB-2 Navigator in which he was a student vanished over the Gulf of Mexico with two other students, an instructor and the pilot and co-pilot. The story of the plane’s last flight and the biographies of all aboard (two were to be married the following weekend) can be viewed at this link: Beechcraft SNB-2 Navigator and Crew.

According to former Matawan Historical Society member Tom Henderson, who mowed the Banke’s lawn in the 1950s, his parents kept Arris’ bedroom untouched and it remained that way until they both passed away.

Since it was a training flight, the seven airmen are not considered missing in “action,” nor were they awarded Purple Heart citations.

Of note is the fact that the individual who wrote the lyrics for the school’s alma matter, Marjorie Warwick Potter, died in 2012, outliving Arris by almost 70 years.

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Mark Chidichimo
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