Friday, April 18, 2014

Remembering Uncle Mike

Henry Wilmer Bannarn "Mike"
For as long as I can remember. I've heard my mother and grandmother talk about "Uncle Mike". I never met him, but I sure felt like I did. He was like a celebrity in my family. They were obviously very proud of him. Mom always said that my oldest brother, who was and still is very artistic, got his talent from uncle Mike. Growing up, I remember that he could draw anything. Mom always said that artistic expression ran in the BANNARN family and that many relatives were talented in one way or another. I knew that Uncle Mike was the brother of my mother's father, Anthony BANNARN. I also knew that he was an artist. But It wasn't until I got older, and became more curious about my family history, that I began to ask questions about the man called "Uncle Mike". Curious me..I always wanted to know more.

Grandma always had so much to say, and never seemed to mind my questions. Especially when she was in the mood to talk. I knew that she knew the Bannarn's well, I also knew that she had been best friend's with Grandpa Tony and Uncle Mike's cousin, Cleola Bannarn...Grandma was just the right person to talk to.
Cleola Bannarn Davis & Margaret Doyle Bannarn 1939-Minneapolis

Grandma Margaret's memories of Uncle Mike:

Henry Wilmer Bannarn, known as " Mike" to many, was an Artist and Sculptor. He was born July 1910 in Wetumka, Oklahoma to parents, Dee Bannarn and Hassie Thompson. His family came to Minnesota a few years after he was born.

"Mike was one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet". He was very good looking, of course all the Bannarn boys were. He was very sweet, a real good guy". I think that grandma admired how good he was to his mother because she mentioned it quite often in our talks, she always said that he came home from school and took care of her. She said that Mike was extremely talented and could always draw well. She remembers him going to art school. He later went off to the war and moved to New York. She remembers his wife Mayola and always talked about how beautiful she was. Together they had three children.

Growing up I never payed much attention to the sculptures that my grandmother had sitting in her home. It wasn't until many years later that she told me that Uncle Mike made them. His sculptures and artwork remain throughout my family today.

I never did ask my grandmother, but I now wonder if she knew all those years ago that he would be so popular one day, his works so great. Mom used to say that she always told them to hang on to his sculptures, they were something to treasure. I wouldn't be surprised if grandma knew after all..

Henry Wilmer Bannarn

Wikipedia has a pretty cool description about Uncle Mike and his work.


© 2014 Denise Muhammad, They Came From Virgina

Source: Interview with Margaret Doyle James


  1. Denise, I enjoyed your post on "Uncle Mike." His work is exceptional, and he is forever a part of history! Having someone to provide insight to one's ancestor is priceless. Great pictures of your family members, and thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Thank you! yes, his work is Amazing! I feel blessed to be related to such a talented man. :)

  3. Hi Denise...he was a talented artist! I love the watercolor painting.

  4. Wonderful. There is so much to his story.

    1. Yes, there sure is. Much more than I could write..Thanks Kristin.

  5. Dear Denise, I am an Art History student MNSU in Mankato and I've been doing research on Henry Bannarn. I was grateful to discover your website - it's helped me learn more about his personal character and his family (your family) history. I am presenting a paper I wrote about him at the Minneapolis Institute of Art this Saturday. I don't know if you live in the area but I wanted to invite you to come! Here's the info:

    If you want to contact me directly my email is



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