Cover photo for James H. "Jim" Wilbanks's Obituary
James H. "Jim" Wilbanks Profile Photo
1942 James 2020

James H. "Jim" Wilbanks

December 15, 1942 — November 25, 2020

If you ever met Jim Wilbanks on the street his first question would always be, “how are you” and unlike so many, Jim meant it, he wanted to know how you were because Jim genuinely cared about people.

James H. Wilbanks, fondly known as Jim, was born on December 15, 1942, in San Diego, California, the oldest of Prentice H. and Mary Irene Latham Wilbanks’ three sons.  He took the role of big brother very seriously and was often called upon to supply the family with meat for the table.  He was such a good shot, that when Mary would ask him to go shoot something for supper, he would get the allotted number of bullets and would return with exactly the amount of game requested.

Since Prentice was a Methodist pastor the family moved frequently, finally settling in the Gravois Mills area of Missouri.  It was here that Jim took on his first job, walking each day to work at the Hibdon-Laurie gas station.  He was such a dependable employee that Mr. Laurie entrusted him with opening and closing the station, complete with returning the money box to him every day.  That work ethic was a staple of Jim’s character and one he never outgrew.

At the age of 17 Jim decided to go to work in Springfield, Missouri, so he hitchhiked to Springfield, applied at the Sears Store and immediately was put to work in the back of the store.  A turn of luck allowed him to work in the shoe department and before long he realized he had a knack for sales.  He became a top salesman by earning extra commission selling accessories to go along with the customer’s new pair of shoes.  It wasn’t long before he decided to return to Morgan County, accompanying his family on the move to Stover.  It was in Stover that Jim realized he had found his forever home and also met his future bride, Marlene Warnke, while attending Stover High School.  Following their graduation in 1961, Jim and Marlene married on September 30, 1961 at the Stover United Methodist Church and for the next 53 years devoted their lives to each other and their family.

Jim worked as a butcher for Cooper’s IGA and later owned and operated Wilbanks’ Hardware in Stover for many years.  After selling his store he went to work in Laurie, managing the Tallman Company and later retired as manager from their Osage Beach store  He also briefly worked at Gates in Versailles.

Jim believed in community, volunteering his time in the Stover Lions Club, serving on the Stover City Council and the Stover School Board and in 1972 was listed in Who’s Who of Young Americans.  At the time of his death he was serving on the board at the Golden Age Living Center in Stover.

He was a faithful member of the Stover United Methodist Church and when it was time for the annual church bar-b-que could be found manning the fire pit, roasting the chickens for everyone to enjoy.

Jim and Marlene were probably most well known for their love of sports, professional and most of all the local sports teams from the community.  Soccer, basketball, volleyball, you name it; rarely was there a sporting event from the Stover or Versailles schools that you could not look up in the stands and see Jim and Marlene cheering on the local team. They attended hundreds of sporting events and activities for their grandchildren and even after Marlene’s death Jim continued making the games, often accompanied by his kids and grandkids.

However, Jim’s greatest enjoyment came from doing for others.  He and Marlene’s home was open to anyone who needed a place to stay.  He was often known to step in and lend a helping hand, whether it was a ride to the store or helping make up the difference when someone came up short at the cash register.  He was the true embodiment of “pay it forward.”

Jim and Marlene looked forward to holidays and loved decorating their home and yard for the locals and those traveling through town to enjoy.  Most of all they enjoyed spending time with their family and were known to spoil their grandkids every chance they could.

It was early Wednesday morning, November 25, 2020, while at his home that Jim unexpectedly passed away, which in truth, was exactly how he wanted to go.

His legacy will continue with his three children and their spouses, Todd and Jennifer Wilbanks of Kansas City; Tori and Tom Merriott of Springfield and Teather and Jared Bellis of Stover; eight grandchildren, McKayla Wilbanks and boyfriend Luke Polen, Mariah Buford and husband Issiah, Maxlyn Wilbanks and boyfriend Darius Cramer, Taylor Jaudes and husband Bobby, Tyler Merriott and wife Shea, Tanna, Kyp and Jaylea Kay Bellis, and two great grandchildren, William and Andrew Jaudes, along with his two brothers, Joe Wilbanks of Versailles and Mike Wilbanks and wife R.J. of Peoria, Illinois and their families, as well as a host of friends.

Jim was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Marlene on November 18, 2014, his parents, one daughter, Tana Beth Wilbanks and two Bellis’ grandbabies.

Graveside services for Jim will be 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 2, at the Stover Cemetery with Corey Garr officiating.  Weather permitting the family will visit at the cemetery with those attending following the service.

Memorial contributions are suggested to the Jim and Marlene Wilbanks Stover Bulldog Athletic and Activities Fund.


Graveside Service Stover Cemetery Wednesday, December 02, 2020 1:30 PM Highway 135 south
Stover, MO 65078 Directions
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