John J. Banach Jr., the retired vice president for industrial relations of The Baltimore Sun, died of cancer Friday while on a cruise near Puerto Rico. He was 61.
Mr. Banach retired in January from the position he had held since 1976, when he was named vice president of the A. S. Abell Co., the former publisher of The Sun and The Evening Sun.
Mr. Banach, who resided in Towson, came to the newspapers in 1968 as personnel manager, after being assistant business manager of the News American, where he had worked since coming to Baltimore in 1962.
Reg Murphy, chairman of The Baltimore Sun Co. who worked daily with Mr. Banach from mid-1981 to mid-1989, praised him yesterday as "the finest human being you could imagine."
"John was a man who valued loyalty and honesty. He would go to great lengths to keep his word," Mr. Murphy said of Mr. Banach, who for years oversaw contract negotiations and dealt with labor relations at The Baltimore Sun.
"He inspired me and many, many others with his courage in the last several years . . . in his battle with several different forms of cancer," he said. "John and I played a lot of golf, and if John was playing, you wanted him for a partner. He didn't have classic form, but he'd win for you with classic determination."
Louis J. Franconeri, vice president for operations at The Baltimore Sun, described him as "a kind, understanding, gracious person."
"He's done more good silent deeds for the average worker than 100 others."
John V. Sullivan, retired president of Teamsters Local 355, who negotiated with Mr. Banach for 20 years, praised his honesty, saying, "The man never lied to me. Some people are honest with you when they want something and dishonest when they have something you want. Mr. Banach was always honest. He never changed."
A native of Milwaukee, he graduated from Marquette University High School in 1948 and won a basketball scholarship to Marquette University.
He was a 1958 graduate of the School of Business Administration at Marquette, completing his studies at night after serving in the U.S. Army in the Korean War.
From 1953 until 1958, he also worked as a management trainee at the Milwaukee Sentinel, where he became assistant to the president. From 1960 until 1962, he was assistant business manager.
He was then transferred to Baltimore by the Hearst chain, which sold the Sentinel to the Milwaukee Journal after it was struck by the Newspaper Guild.
Mr. Banach is survived by his wife of 39 years, the former Gerry Marie Behnke; a daughter, Sandra Ann Banach of Baltimore; and a son, Robert John Banach of Hanover, Pa.
Funeral plans were incomplete yesterday.