Banarsi Lal, 86, and long time resident of Fairbanks, passed away on the
morning of Friday, December 28, 2018 at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital
surrounded by his loving family.
Banarsi was born in Varanasi, India, second eldest in a family of nine
children. As the son of a physician, who served as a Medical Officer for
the Government of India, he moved around with his family throughout India.
The family made their home in Lucknow, India, which is primarily where
Banarsi was raised.
By the age of 24, Banarsi had completed degrees in Law and Social Work at
Lucknow University and a Master of Psychology at Agra University. Banarsi
married Asha on February 25, 1956 in Lucknow, India. His work with the
Uttar Pradesh State government's Department of Social Welfare required him
to be placed in assignments throughout India. Often times, he was sent
alone, and at other times, the entire family relocated. In April 1964,
Banarsi was a recipient of a grant jointly funded by the Fulbright
Commission and the US Education Foundation, whereby he spent 6 months in the
United States for an educational opportunity specifically for Social
Banarsi's experience in the United States was life changing. Upon his
return to India, he relayed to Asha that he wanted nothing more than to
raise his own family in the U.S. As such, in the early 1970s, Banarsi
immigrated to the United States alone, initially to Boston. He was invited
to interview for a position in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1972. The employer
worried that Banarsi would be deterred by the cold, harsh climate of
Fairbanks. However, it was the warmth of the community that drew Banarsi in
and kept him in Fairbanks for the rest of his life. Needless to say he
accepted the position with what is known today as the Fairbanks Resource
After nearly a five year separation, Banarsi was reunited with his family
when they joined him here in Fairbanks in July 1975. Soon thereafter,
Banarsi accepted a position with Fairbanks Native Association. During his
tenure with FNA he was responsible for creating and launching several
innovative programs that aimed to address addiction issues for different
population segments, using a variety of approaches geared to the prevention
of substance abuse and sustained recovery. His pioneering work with such
programs was recognized both at a State and National level. He retired from
his position as Director of Behavioral Health Services at FNA in 2000, after
24 years of service.
Post-retirement, Banarsi continued to stay active and remain involved in
volunteer roles with the Alaska Commission on Aging, the Governor's Council
on Disabilities and Special Education, the Fairbanks North Star Borough
Senior Advisory Commission and Health and Social Services Commission, the
Pioneers' Home Advisory Council, the Board of Directors for the Fairbanks
Community Mental Health Center, and the Board of Directors for the North
Star Council on Aging/Senior Center. In 2011, Banarsi was awarded an
Honorary Doctor of Laws from UAF for his vigilant dedication to the
underserved needs of vulnerable populations of Alaska and for improving the
overall quality of Alaska social service programs.
Banarsi will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 62 years, Asha, children
Jyotsna (Steve), Sanjiv (Denise), Nandita (Dan), and grandchildren Daniel,
Andrew, Chloe, Maya, Kavya and Kaushal. He will also be fondly remembered
by his sisters Tara, Sheela, Padma, and brothers Kamal and Ravi.
A celebration of life honoring Banarsi Lal will be held on Sunday, January
20, 2019 at Pike's Waterfront Lodge in the Binkley Room from 3PM - 6PM.
Memorial donations, in lieu of flowers, may be made in remembrance of
Banarsi to the Banarsi Lal Social Work Scholarship at UAF, or the American