Evangelist Missionary Mother Ellen Fumbanks and Times contributor, passes

December 26, 2019

Evangelist Missionary Mother Ellen Fumbanks, who also served as the Milwaukee Times birthday list contributor, passed away on December 9, 2019. She had suffered a stroke earlier this year; she was 77.

Mother Fumbanks was born on February 19, 1943 in Clarksdale, Mississippi to the union of Rosie Lee Banks and Charles Barner, Sr. Her mother instilled in her the word of God at an early age with the spirit of prayer by example. She was the second eldest of 15 children, and moved to Chicago with her family at a young age. She received her formal education and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School on Chicago’s South Side. Her schoolmate, David Cooke, who was the baby brother of late great singer Sam Cooke, had a crush on her as did many other young men because she was such a mature, sweet, and beautiful young woman. She went to live with her beloved aunt Carrie Mae Beverly, who was a teacher, and Uncle Leon Beverly, who was a labor organizer with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Their influence ignited her passion for excellence, and caused her to fall in love with teaching and political action.

Affectionately called ‘Honey’ by her family because of her sweet personality, she later met Sidney Fumbanks, Sr., and in 1960, decided to join hands in holy matrimony. They relocated to Milwaukee, WI in 1966 to avoid the gang violence and tumultuous atmosphere of Chicago, to give their children a safer environment in which to thrive. They were blessed with three children: Winnetka (Wanda), Sidney Jr, and Anthony. She is the grandmother of 8 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. Ellen received her love for the word of God, and prayer from her mother and grandmother, and has been a faithful, dedicated servant in the Kingdom of God for more than 45 years.

Mother Fumbanks joined Morris Memorial C.O.G.I.C. (now Morris Cathedral) in 1972, under the leadership of Elder Garnett Herron, her father in Christ. She was able to work on various church committees as appointed her by Elder Herron. A number of these committees included Executive Secretary, Youth Coordinator, President of the Missionary Board, and Education Committee Chairperson. Her passion was always teaching, and she taught Sunday School, and Prayer and Bible Band for many, many years. After years of service and dedication she was called into the ministry of evangelism, and became a Licensed Missionary to help build the Lord’s Kingdom. Elder Herron later appointed her as a Mother of the Church, and she continued to serve and assist all who encountered her.

As time progressed, Ellen returned to school and earned two associate degrees from MATC, and later obtained two bachelor’s degrees from UW-Milwaukee, graduating with honors. She then finally decided to return to school again to complete a master’s degree in education from Marquette University in 2004, also with honors. She received numerous academic achievement and community activism awards for her involvement in pushing Milwaukee’s progressive educational and social agendas.

As an advocate in the community, Evangelist Fumbanks worked with Milwaukee’s elderly population through the housing authority. She also loved to work with the youth and several youth development programs, and came out of retirement to assist as a youth advocate and parent trainer for Gray’s Child Development Center at the request of her dear friend, Mother Bessie Gray. Her tenure at Head Start lasted for more than 32 years, with her serving in various capacities as teacher, social worker, and an education and parent involvement coordinator.

Always politically aware and active, she worked the polling stations for many years during local and national elections, advocating the Community to become involved in the political process. She has even shared her time and voice, empowering battered women throughout the community. Mother Fumbanks was also an unofficial member of the Milwaukee Times staff. Every month she would call the Times with names of individuals for the Milwaukee Times birthday list.

Mother Fumbanks once said,”I want people to see their name in the newspaper for something positive, even if it is for their birthday. People light up when they see their name in the paper for something good. They feel good about themselves.”

In all of her accomplishments, Evangelist Fumbanks always gave God the glory, and was very humble about her achievements.

She traveled abroad to Africa several times, in addition to visiting Jamaica, Mexico and the Bahamas. She gained extensive cultural insights that garnered her an extraordinary exposition, featuring rare and priceless cultural artifacts. Her small 5 foot 1 inch frame stood tall amongst women, and her works spoke for her wherever she went.

She is survived by her loving husband of 57 years, Sidney Fumbanks, Sr. (Luke and April Palmer, Russell Wells, Cynthia Gude); daughter, Winnetka Fumbanks; sons, Sidney Fumbanks, Jr. and Anthony Fumbanks (Carla); brothers, Charles Barner, Sr, Elder Nathaniel Banks (Tenell), Louis Davis, Jr., Coleman Howard Davis and Donneal Davis; sister, Shirley Davis-Gray (Roscoe); brothers- in-law, Cyril Fumbanks (Pam) and Melvin Fumbanks; sisters-in-law, Jewel Rose Fumbanks-Green (Andrew) and Barbara (James) Fumbanks, as well as grandchildren, great-grandchildren, in-laws, and an extensive host of cousins, nieces, nephews, close friends, and spiritual sons and daughters.

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