Then in 1994, writing in the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry publication Contact point, Eric Pfeiffer spoke of another interview. “When Reta Banks sits on the couch in her small, immaculate San Francisco Apartment, her pretty, gracefully lined face, her white hair, pink lipstick, peach sweater and white pearl earrings make her look like a recently retired seller of See’s candy. Indeed, she must have surprised more than a few UOP dentists when they learning this eighty-six year old is a ship captain who not only has been a volunteer in the Coast Guard Auxiliary for thirty one years but still holds a license to operate one hundred ton boats.”
Her fame had spread to Australia and on January 4, 1998, John McCoy of Radio 4BC Radio in Brisbane, Australia telephoned Reta, interviewing her live-to-air on the occasion of her ninetieth birthday. His concern that the Captain’s language might be as colorful as he must have imagined a seafaring type persons’ would be was not justified.
A full two months passed before March 1998 when Rebecca Bolam for the South Gippsland Sentinel Times of southeast Victoria interviewed Reta Banks when she visited her home town of Wonthaggi
“Sea Captain docks in at Wonthaggi.” Rebecca continued her story, “Dressed in a pink travel suit and jumper, Reta Banks’ well-groomed appearance belies her career as a salty sea captain … just as her demeanor does her 90 years …” In the full page article, Rebecca Bolam explained that the hospital ship that carried Reta Banks to America included among its passengers General Sir Thomas Blamey and the then war-time Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin.
Captain Ducky is the first to concede that age is catching up although her love of horses and of most animals continues. Seated on a rearing horse today is out of the question, although it is only a few years since she stopped exercising horses for friends.
Sometimes she is known as “Lady Tyles,” coming about because of her Australian accent, Captain Joe Watson a former Fisherman’s Wharf Captain explained its origins in verse:
“Here’s to Lady Tyles and how she got her name;
Tails and Tyles you know are one, and the same.
For when the baits too long, and from the bait shop you are miles.
You just put it on the hook, and you cuts off the Tyles;
It took us all a little while to get it through our brain;
That to Ducky, tails were the tyles, so that’s how she got her name.
She keeps herself looking sharp, and her wit is sharp as well.
But when she’s out there on the boat, and fishing by your side.
You’ll find that she’s the other half of “Bonnie and Clyde”.
She can fish a pole and swing a net, as well as you or me.
And she seems to be right at home, whether calm or rough the sea.
So here’s again to Ducky or Lady Tyles is your choice,
Sing “Rain drops falling on your Edd”; we love to hear your voice.”
Captain Ducky is a title Reta carries with pride. When she qualified as a Captain, she found some of the boat owners and operators were reluctant to accept a female in their domain. They gave their female counterparts a particularly hard time. “They would radio encouragement by making statements like go home and wash your dishes. That only made us more determined to succeed and we showed them a thing or three,” Reta said.
A recent observation by the Captain finishes this brief account. “I’ve had one very good life and if anyone annoys me, I can tell them, and I do.”
VALE. Captain Reta Banks known to many as Captain Ducky (1908 to 2013.)
It is with sadness that we now inform you that on June 4, 2013, Captain Ducky passed away peacefully in her sleep in San Francisco. She lived to be 100 years. In fact she lived to be 105 years and 5 months.
According to her wishes, she is to be cremated and her ashes scattered in the sea outside the Golden Gate.
The San Francisco Chronicle published the autobiography of Reta Banks on June 16, 2013. The following link is to that obituary:
Another story in the San Francisco Chronicle was on the occasion of her 100th Birthday in San Francisco.
She went for a tour of the bay with some of her other friends