Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

MC Weekly

November 27, 2013

RAY MOSCOWITZ: Judge listened to dad's music, mom's advice

Dan Banina cherishes his blue-collar upbringing.

He worked behind the concession stand at the Towne Theater in Highland, starting at $1.10 an hour and eventually reaching $2.25.

He did the nastiest jobs in the grimy steel mills of Northwest Indiana, which convinced him that his mother was right.

He poured drinks as a bartender and welcomed guests as a host at a restaurant in Calumet City, Ill., during summers while attending law school.

In each job he learned life lessons that help him preside these days over Superior Court 2 in Miami County.

Daniel C. "Dan" Banina’s story is a narrative of a man, now 56, who rose from a blue-collar background through hard work, dedication and determination to a pivotal role in helping to maintain a civilized society.

It is a story whose backdrop is the gritty milieu of The Region, Northwest Indiana, and includes an important piece of wisdom from a man who ran a tomato canning business in Franklin County, nestled in southern Indiana.

It is also a story with an unusual twist.

It is a story that unfolds on Aug. 6, 1957, at St. Catherine’s Hospital in East Chicago. Dan was born to Jerry Banina, who toiled at Inland Steel until he retired, and Eileen Jutkus Banina, a secretary who, Dan says, never made more than minimum wage.

Jerry Banina’s hard work to provide for his wife and three children, who had settled in Highland, was softened by his passion for music. Sometimes he would play six nights a week in a band, Dan recalls.

Jerry’s father, Joe, had come from Yugoslavia and started a band — the Star Seranaders — that played lively Tamburitzan folk music of eastern Europe that uses mostly string instruments.

“He could sit down and listen to a record, and in a couple of hours write out the sheet music for it,” Banina said of his father. “He had amazing musical talent.”

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