For three decades, Mayor Pro Tem C. Shane Wilbanks served on the City Council, where he was a staunch promoter of parks and recreation programs and helped his city grow into a premier tourist destination in North Texas.
He was also an accomplished piano and card player, wine aficionado, dapper dresser and gentleman who, with his wife, Paula, was nearly omnipresent in his beloved town.
Mr. Wilbanks, 73, died of natural causes in his sleep at his Grapevine home Aug. 21.
During a eulogy presented this week at First Presbyterian Church, Mayor William D. Tate, a longtime colleague and close friend, said of Mr. Wilbanks: “He was a handsome man who dressed well in the Harvard style of tweed coats and sweaters over white shirts with open collars. He wore penny loafers and drove a Corvette. He was on everyone’s top 10 list. He had a soft and easy gait and was gentle as a soft summer wind.”
Tate, choking up occasionally, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd. Many were holding the funeral program, which featured a photo of the Grapevine Botanical Gardens at Heritage Park, one of Mr. Wilbanks’ passions.
“He came up with the idea for the botanical gardens after visiting one in the Midwest,” Tate said.
Earlier that day, City Manager Bruno Rumbelow said the city would make arrangements for a special election to fill the councilman’s Place 1 post. In May, Mr. Wilbanks was re-elected in a contested race to a three-year term.
‘What a lucky guy’
Mr. Wilbanks was born and raised in Pampa in the Texas Panhandle. He was a graduate of the University of North Texas — then North Texas State — where he met his wife of 51 years while playing piano at a fraternity party.
“What a lucky guy,” Tate said. “Can you imagine getting to kiss an angel good morning almost every day of your life?”
At the funeral, grandson Zachary Kopec relayed stories about how active Mr. Wilbanks, the father of three and grandfather of six, was in all their lives.
“You couldn’t have asked for a greater grandpa,” he said.
The couple moved to Grapevine in 1965 shortly after marrying.
His business career was as a human resources executive. He worked for several companies, including in the oil and healthcare industries.
Mr. Wilbanks was the first chairman of the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau, serving for five years, and then was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission. He was elected to Place 1 on the City Council in 1985.
In May, Mr. Wilbanks was re-elected on a platform of continuing the city’s quality of life, including parks, open space and recreational venues.
“When I leave our neighborhood, I drive right by the Wilbanks house,” Councilwoman Darlene Freed said. “I will always remember the American flag flying, seeing Shane in his front yard tending to his plants and flowers or out walking the nearby trail named after him. He was passionate about preserving nature, and he cared about having public trails and gardens for all to enjoy.”
Projects of great importance to him included carrying out a voter-approved 2012 bond issue for almost $70 million for two projects — construction of a 108,000-square-foot public safety building that is underway and an expanded multigenerational community recreation center that opened this spring as The REC of Grapevine.
Although he said the size wouldn’t be that grandiose for a city of about 50,000, he was proud that what’s inside The REC is “state-of-the-art.”
“I thinks it’s a great facility that benefits all the citizens of Grapevine and allows everybody old, young and in between to interact with, learn from and enjoy each other,” Mr. Wilbanks said upon its opening.
‘A gifted individual’
Mr. Wilbanks also served on the City Council Utility Committee and was council liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission. He served on the Crime Control and Prevention District board; the Tax Increment Financing District Reinvestment Zone No. 1 and No. 2; and the 4B Economic Development Corp. board.
He and his wife were co-chairs of the 2014 GrapeFest, the largest wine festival in the Southwest. On Aug. 18, three days before his death, he talked after the council meeting about how GrapeFest was one of his favorite city events.
“We were honored to be the co-chairs of the 28th annual GrapeFest and thrilled with all of the participation and crowds surrounding all aspects of the festival,” Mr. Wilbanks said. “The community came together in full force to host GrapeFest and, with hundreds of volunteers, was dedicated to creating memories that will last a lifetime for all of our guests. Grapevine truly delivered.”
Mr. Wilbanks was proud of his community, including Grapevine High School, where his wife was on staff for years and his children were students.
At a council workshop in August 2013, one issue turned into a lively debate punctuated with laughter as Tate and the council struggled to find a design for the new markings for the city’s four water towers that would meet with everyone’s approval.
Past designs included the Mustangs — Grapevine High School’s mascot — and the city’s logo, which features grapes. The city’s moniker is derived from the native grapes prevalent in the area.
Mr. Wilbanks was adamant about including the Mustang motif. Others wanted the city logo. The final decision was for each tower to feature the Grapevine logo on opposite sides and a horse on the remaining two sides.
In saying goodbye to his longtime friend, Tate said: “Shane was a gifted individual. He had that Olympic attitude to dream big, go for the gold, reach for the stars, work hard to make a better community. His accomplishments are too numerous to list, but everywhere you look, you will see things that have been touched by him.”
Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367