Life lessons from inspired 81-year-old Stewart Banner

The only time some of us get to see our grandparents is at some boring old Christmas party down at the coast when the whole family is forced to be together.

However, this is not the case with the Banner family.

Stewart Banner is characteristically upbeat about life at age 81. Here he competes at the inaugural Discovery World Triathlon on April 27, 2014 in Cape Town. photo Carl Fourie

Stewart Banner is characteristically upbeat about life at age 81.
Here he competes at the inaugural Discovery World Triathlon on April 27, 2014 in Cape Town.
photo Carl Fourie

You see, the Banner family had a get-together this weekend, not just any garden variety family gathering but rather a triathlon relay gathering.

What made it remarkable was that the grandparent was leading the clan!

Capetonian Stewart Banner (81 years old) took part in the weekend’s Discovery World Triathlon Series in Cape Town on 26 and 27 April 2014. He was the oldest male participant.

He was part of a family team consisting of his 15-year-old grandson Connor, who did the 500m swim leg, Stewart on the 20km bike leg and another grandson, 18-year-old Blake, who ran the final 5km.

This is a far better way to spend some family time than some of the more traditional ones!

Stewart is not only an active 81 year old but also a very successful and respected business man and a well-known philanthropist. Having been involved in the hotel business for the past 40 years, he was approached by the late Francois Petousis, who owned The Vineyard Hotel and Townhouse Hotel to join him and his family to help develop and grow the business.

They now own a third hotel called De Oudewerf in Stellenbosch. He is currently the Group Operations Director of the three hotels. He also oversees the Kids of the Cape charity which has beneficiaries like SA Children’s Home, Aquarius School Feeding Project and Anthea Pieters Safe House amongst others.

Stewart is no stranger to the athletic fraternity, having achieved South African, Transvaal and Western Province colours for running. He also trained Olympian Elana Meyer and European champion silver medalist Marcello Fiasconaro.

After a knee replacement, Stewart decided to take up cycling to reduce the impact to his knees. He starts every day with a spinning session at 5:30am, which has proved to be beneficial, evidenced by his second in his age category at this year’s Argus Cycle Tour. He is currently training for a tour of Scotland’s whisky region, where he could be cycling up to five hours a day. As somebody that has Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, Daley Thompson, Lance Armstrong (pre-banning) and Mark Spitz as role models, we could all learn a little or even a lot from Stewart. We managed to get in touch with him to gain a little insight into what makes such a great individual tick.

After being a successful businessman for so long, what made you become a philanthropist?

As an international athletics coach I trained many South African champions, as well as world record holders, but never charged for my services. I was also an athletics coach for Italy where I refused payment. Helping others was my hobby, which extended in recent years into other fields.

Have you achieved what you set to achieve from the Kids Of The Cape charity?

Kids Of The Cape is a registered non-profit organisation, which was started through the hotels. We requested our guests to pay R5 per stay towards this charity and we as a company would double it. We supplemented the funds by organising functions like an annual golf day. We now distribute these funds to nine different childrens’ charities.

Have you always been involved in sport or is it something you picked up later in life?

I have been involved in sport all my life. Mainly athletics, where I also competed internationally and through injury had to give up running and took up cycling. I also play tennis, golf and compete in cycling races like The Argus Cycle Tour. In addition to becing a former Chairman of Western Province Athletics, I am also a past chairman of the Two Oceans Marathon and the Hout Bay Cycling Club, which was set up for development of young residents from Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg communities.

In business and sport, we face adversity. What motivates you through these times?

I look at business and life, as I look at cycling. You have uphills and downhills, but on the way you must have enjoyment and ultimately satisfaction at the finish.

You will be heading to Scotland later in the year to do a bicycle tour of their whisky region.

Yes. A group of four of us will start our cycle tour in Skye, then head over the causeway into the Western Highlands, down through Pitlochry and back to Helensburgh. There we will catch the ferry to Greenock where we will spend the night with my brother Ian. We will spend five days cycling through beautiful countryside and lochs and will visit seven or eight distilleries on the way.

What advice to each generation of your peers, your children and your grandchildren, what would it be for each generation?

Wake up each day and decide it’s going to be a great one and then do everything that you can to achieve that goal.

Do you still have things on your bucket list?

Yes. This year the tour of the distilleries and next year India. Each year I plan to do something that’s special and a little different.

How do you want to be remembered?

I don’t really mind how I will be remembered, but in my lifetime I strive to give more than I receive.

How would you describe yourself in 30 words or less?

A positive and hardworking person. I thrive on setting and achieving goals. I am also lucky with my health, family and friends and thank my parents for a good education.

Advice for a fulfilling life: Give More Than You Receive and Never Stop Giving!

Stewart Banner is an inspiration to young and old and also a good example of how we could be living our lives. We might not live forever but the time that we do have should be spent living life to the full.

Stewart shows us that this is indeed possible.



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