Heights Funeral Home


Jo Marie Bankston

Passed away on November 28, 2019

Jo Marie “Fena” Bankston passed away, peacefully, into the arms of our glorious God on November 28, 2019, Thanksgiving night. Fena lived life to the fullest and leaves behind family and friends who will miss her immensely and will always love her very much. She will be remembered for her generous, giving spirit, love of good music, dancing, playing cards, making Italian cookies, cooking the best pasta, meatballs, crab, fried shrimp - and visiting the casino a time or two! The love she showed for her family was nothing short of limitless and without end. “Fena” taught many life lessons to those she leaves behind, with the love for God and her family as a top priority. No one ever loved a family gathering more than Fena! Whether it was a typical weekend at the bay house in Seabrook or a holiday gathering with extended family at home, her home was always a gathering place to share much love and lots of laughter. She was preceded in death by her loving husband, James Cecil “J.C.” Bankston; her father, Ben S. Ragusa, and later in life she lost her mother, Rosalie Loverde Ragusa; her sisters, Mary Bua and Frances Carbone; as well as her brother, Sam Ragusa, all of Houston, Texas. Fena, her parents, siblings, and all of her in-law’s were godly and praying people. By our faith we know they are now reunited in heaven, surrounded by angels, beauty, peace and rest.

Jo’s legacy as being coined the “first woman police officer” at Houston’s Police Department is one of great pride. The year was 1955 when Mrs. Bankston and 3 other women were invited to join the Police Academy, after working years before that as a clerk at Houston’s City Hall. While the Houston Police Academy existed at this time, women were not allowed to be trained there. Female officers were a new and unproven entity, actually an almost unheard of idea in Houston at the time. Jo went on to graduate from Class No. 12, which would be the first class to have had women recruits, as well as serving as her class Secretary. Mrs. Bankston was the only one of the four to live to enjoy retirement years. She was a trailblazer in the 1950-1960 era, clearing the way for future women on the force. While at HPD, she met her wonderful husband, J.C., where they worked together in the Juvenile Division., and later, after J.C. passed away, she moved to the Narcotics Division. In 1985, Jo retired from HPD, and her dedication to duty and her work ethic continued to follow. She remained active in both the Retired Officers Association and Houston Police Credit Union until just a few years ago.

Fena attended St. Theresa’s Catholic Church where she served as a Eucharistic Minister, Parish Council and Women’s Club member and dedicated parishioners for 60 years. She enjoyed her membership in the Tapawingo Club and Trinacria Club for many years and was a longtime member of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart. She served on multiple HPD committees, as well as past President of the Texas Municipal Police Wives Association. She loved her bus trips to the casino, but more importantly, loved the people on the bus.

She is survived by her daughter, Donna Bankston Dornak, her husband, Allen, and James “Jimmy” Bankston, his wife, Amy. “FiFi’s” grandchildren, Matt Dornak, his wife, Jessie; Brad Dornak, his wife, Sarah; and Ethan and Cayden Bankston whom all brought her so much joy. She was able to meet her first great grandchild, Jack Allen Dornak and has two more great grandchildren on the way. We can be assured she will be smiling proudly upon their births! She has numerous loving nieces and nephews and admired by all of her family and friends for her strength, courage and love for life.

The family wishes to thank her extraordinary caregivers, especially Irma Flores, who has lovingly cared for our mom for over a decade. We have been extremely blessed with the best caregivers, who have become like “family” to us. We are grateful for UT Physician Group and Dr. Satheesha Kumar for the wonderful medical care throughout the years. and more recently, Houston Hospice.

Friends are invited to attend the Visitation with the family from 5:00-7:00 pm and a Rosary led by the Ladies of The Sacred Heart on Tues., Dec. 3rd beginning at 7:00 pm in the chapel at Heights Funeral Home, 1317 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wed., Dec. 4th at 10:30 am at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church Memorial Park, 6622 Haskell St., Houston, TX 77007. Interment to follow at Forest Park Cemetery, 6900 Lawndale, Houston, TX 77023.

Pallbearers are loving nephews Gerald Bogue, Andre Ferrante, Benny Ragusa, Michael Ragusa, Mike Szydlik, and Jimmy Williams.

Mass Intentions may be given online on St. Theresa’s Memorial Park website, Houston, TX under the heading “Sacraments”.


  • Visitation

    Tuesday, December 3, 2019

  • Rosary Service

    Tuesday, December 3, 2019

  • Funeral Service

    Wednesday, December 4, 2019

  • Committal Service

    Wednesday, December 4, 2019


Jo Marie Bankston

have a memory or condolence to add?

JoDe Romano

December 4, 2019

My amazing godmother I named Fifi.
She was a friend, cousin & godmother always there when I needed her. For years I thought she was my aunt.
I will never forget our funny episodes, she lives in my heart forever!
Mom, Barthelene Loverde Romano ,will be happy to see her cousin and friend again. They will always live in our fond memories !

Martha Lucario

December 3, 2019

So many memories of you as a wonderful friend. Lots of good times together since our days being members in our Trinacria club. May God bless you as you rest in Gods arms. I will always miss you!
Love your friend,
Martha Lucario

Dee Wilker

December 2, 2019

I will always have fond memories of Jo and J.C. Bankston. When I graduated from Class 65 Jo was already in the Juvenile Division, one of the two Divisions women could be assigned in 1974. Jo was a guiding light and mentor for me during my formative years at HPD. I learned and applied all of the lessons she taught and I never went wrong. Thank you, Jo for all the wonderful memories you left me. When I arrived in the Homicide Division, J. C. was there to complete my education.

You have left the corporal world but, you will never leave my heart.

My prayers are with your family at this time of sorrow.
Sincerely and Sympathetically yours,
Dee Wilker

Richard Taylor

December 2, 2019

Being the “first woman police officer” at the Houston Police Department, Mrs. Jo Marie Bankston was a true pioneer in the law enforcement profession. Her courage and determination paved the way for countless women in this country, and particularly in the Great State of Texas. Her story, life, and public service shall serve as an inspiration to all of us and many more to come.

Thank you for your honorable service Mrs. Bankston. God bless you.

Richard E. Taylor, Jr.
United States Marshal
Northern District of Texas

Mike & Mary Jo Piwetz

December 2, 2019

Such a beautiful tribute to such a beautiful woman -- inside and out! We have so many fond memories of visits with Fena at family gatherings. She was so much fun as well as loving, kind and generous. Fena will be missed by many and we will always carry her heart with us. May she rest in peace.

We are having Masses said in her memory at St. Theresa Church. Wish we could be with the family, but unfortunately we won't be able to attend the services. We are sending our love & hugs across the miles to all those who loved her. God bless.

-- Mary Jo (Ferrara) & Mike Piwetz
Rockport, Texas

Cameron Welch

December 2, 2019

Very honored to have known such an amazing woman. Spent many a time talking with her about the good ole days of the the City of Houston and its police department. She was very proud of her family and loved them dearly! Truly a Texas legend. RIP Jo

Roxanne Mancuso

December 1, 2019

A. Fena was one of my mother's dearest friends. I grew to know her through my friendships w/her nieces and nephews. I had the pleasure of spending time at her bay home w/family and friends.
May she rest in peace. She was a funny, loving and caring person to have known.

Paul Vitanza

December 1, 2019

Fena was one a kind. She always had a smile on her face when she saw you. Knowing that she was the first female to become a Houston Police Officer was a source of family pride. She did not brag about this but her pride in being a police officer was well know. What a loss to our Loverde family.

With loving memories,

Paul Vitanza

Wayne Jones

December 1, 2019

She always had a pleasant smile and I had the blessing of knowing Jo for over thirty years. May she rest in peace

Hannah Munden

November 30, 2019

You know how special I thought your mom was! I always enjoyed visiting with her when she came to Austin. I'll never forget the fun trip we took with FeFe and Luci!
I'm thinking about all of you at this difficult time.
Love you all,