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Los Gatos Death Notice: Renowned Organist, Pianist Lois Zabel Banke

Well known Bay Area musician served as pianist, organist for Los Gatos Holy Cross Lutheran Church for 40 years.

Lois Zabel Banke, March 3, 1926-Dec. 1, 2013. Courtesy Los Gatos Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Lois Zabel Banke, March 3, 1926-Dec. 1, 2013. Courtesy Los Gatos Holy Cross Lutheran Church
  • Deceased's name: Lois Zabel Banke
  • Age: 87
  • Date: Dec. 1, 2013


Lois Zabel, a resident of Monte Sereno, was born March 3, 1926 in Hamilton, TX to a Lutheran minister, Rev. Edward Zabel and his wife Emily, both of Indiana.

She died Dec. 1 in her sleep after a suffering a mild stroke. She was 87.

Lois grew up with an older brother, Robert, and sister, Laverne, all living under fairly poor conditions, but getting by.

Reverend Zabel was dealt quite the blow health-wise at a relatively young age and ultimately gave up preaching and the family moved to Austin, TX.

Doing odd jobs from cooking to sewing and baby-sitting, Emily helped scratch together a living for the family and Edward ended up doing yard work to assist.

Meanwhile, the kids in the family all contributed where they could, and from these beginnings did Lois establish her substantial work ethic.

With the notable exception of one bad quarter of algebra, Lois maintained a straight A grade average through high school, while at the same time studying piano and working for the church as a substitute organist and doing other clerical jobs. 

Recognized by her piano teacher as a potential artist, she studied with a better teacher, still thinking that a secretarial career was her future.

Ultimately, with good grades, lots of drive, and plenty of recommendation, Lois got into the University of Texas and pursued a degree in music. Her final academic achievement at the university was a master’s degree in music, achieved under the extremely strict tutelage of Dallies Frantz, a concert pianist of significant note.

The career path for Lois was looking better at this point and regular piano teaching and performance gigs were forthcoming.

While performing at a church social for servicemen, she was introduced to her future husband, Raymond Banke.

Shortly after getting married, Raymond and Lois moved to Houston, TX, where a most challenging audition for the Houston Symphony awaited her.

After practicing many weeks, often eight hours a day, Lois got the job as resident pianist. First son James was born two weeks after a major performance in 1957.

About three years later, it was off to Los Angeles as Raymond’s job with IBM dictated. Lois once again resumed teaching at the college level as well as on a private basis. She was also performing occasionally with the LA Symphony. In 1962, second son Mark was born and a bit more time had to be devoted to raising a family.

Yet another move back to Dallas and Lois was teaching piano again and performing concerts at smaller venues as well as playing an active role in the church choir at Our Redeemer in Dallas. All too soon, Raymond was offered a significant promotion at IBM and the family decided to move back to the San Jose area.

The year 1967 saw Lois taking on the church choir and organist position at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Los Gatos as well as teaching private piano lessons.

Soon more small concert opportunities arose and she played at Stanford, San Jose State University, Villa Montalvo and other halls as the years rolled by.

Around 1971, Lois tried something way different from anything in her past. She learned to snow ski. At first it was nothing but frustration for her, but that perseverance streak in her kept her trying and trying. Never getting much beyond a novice level, Lois still enjoyed the challenge and spoke fondly of the experience years later.

The year 1980 came along with a celebration of more than 25 years of happy marriage and a similar celebration of Raymond’s tenure with IBM.

Unfortunately, Raymond passed away at 53 from a heart attack that year. Lois had a lot of challenge in front of her. Although she never remarried, she managed to keep the household intact, managed investments, put up with a couple of rowdy post-college kids and continued to teach piano, play the organ and perform concerts occasionally.

As time progressed, particularly in the 2000s, Lois’s health declined but she still kept teaching and played the organ until her early 80s. She could still play some amazingly complex pieces on the piano as recently as six months prior to her passing, but the dementia she was fighting was taking over.

Lois always professed a strong faith in God and we can rejoice in her new life with her Lord and always be thankful for the joy she gave us.

Service for Lois were held at Los Gatos Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 15885 Los Gatos-Almaden Rd., on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013.

—Submitted to Los Gatos Patch by Los Gatos Holy Cross Lutheran Church

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Sarah Tarver April 02, 2014 at 03:19 PM
Thank you for posting the obituary of Lois Zabel Banke. I was looking for information on her, as I had not heard from her in over 10 years. She was my beloved piano teacher for 5 years when I studied for my degree plus some post grad in music from The University of Texas in Austin, TX from 1946-1951. I am so sad to read of her death. She was a wonderful musician and person. Thank you.

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