John William "Bill" Bankert spent nearly all of his working life at the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, beginning his career there in 1964 - just one year after the Hall opened - and staying on until his premature retirement in December 2005.
"Once he walked in that door, he really never walked out," said Joan Bankert, who married John in 1962. "He got hired and kept moving up the ladder."
John made it all the way to the top, becoming the Hall's fourth president/executive director in 1996. His retirement was brought on not by age, tenure, loss of desire or any of the reasons generally associated with wrapping up a career. John's retirement was thrust forcibly on him by the onset of Lewy body dementia, a debilitating disease that his family described as a combination of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
"With Dad, it hit pretty quickly," said John's son Mark Bankert. "It's been tough for him. He's kind of at the point now that he doesn't get out of the house much at all."
John - who is more commonly known as Bill around his hometown of Waynesburg - was diagnosed with the disease in March of 2005 at the age of 65. Mark said that even before that, John knew something was wrong. He knew he was forgetting simple things that most everyone takes for granted. And he couldn't believe it was happening.
Mark still remembers the day they decided that John needed to see a doctor.