Radio personality Walter "Q-Bear" Banks Jr. has had a rough few weeks, and now the north Minneapolis community he’s served for over 40 years is rallying behind him.
Banks, who’s been a part of 89.9 KMOJ since the nonprofit station first went on the air, was hospitalized for nine days with severe pneumonia, which also aggravated other long-term medical conditions.
Q-Bear’s now resting and recovering at home. But he's 57 years old and also suffers from heart and kidney conditions as well as arthritis. And he’s got bills to pay.
“His health deteriorated a lot in the last 10 years,” says his childhood friend Ray Seville, the underwriting manager for KMOJ.
Seville is one of the friends who set up a GoFundMe in Q-Bear’s name on April 1. The fundraising goal is modest -- just $5,000, which Seville says will go to cover the cost of Banks’ hospital stay and other expenses incurred while he’s waiting for a new insurance policy to kick in. As of Tuesday morning, 85 people had donated a total of $3,570.
These days, Banks is operations coordinator and co-program director at the station, in addition to hosting a 2-6 p.m. drive time show. He started at KMOJ when it was still a low-power AM station.
"When I was 16 we were riding our bikes and we got to the radio station, when it was on the second floor of a project home,” Seville says. “He said, that’s where I’m going to work.”
As Seville puts it: “Station managers, program directors -- he’s outlasted everybody at the station.”
In addition to fundraising, Seville’s other goal is to get Banks to relax for a few weeks. “He’s an antsy guy, he can’t sit still,” he says. “All he thinks about is that radio station. The last time he had a real vacation was in the ’90s. He’s old-school. He’s like dinosaur old-school.”