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South Carolina mother and daughter teachers die from COVID-19 weeks apart

Shirley Bannister, 57, and Demetria Bannister, 28, were "loving and driven women," a relative said.
Demetria and Shirley Bannister.
Demetria and Shirley Bannister.Shirley Bannister
/ Source: NBC News

The mother of a South Carolina elementary school teacher who died from COVID-19 last month shared the same fate as her daughter a few weeks later, a relative said.

Shirley Bannister, 57, died from COVID-19 complications on Sept. 27, several weeks after her daughter, Demetria "Demi" Bannister, 28, died from the virus on Sept. 7, Dennis Bell, Shirley's brother, said Friday.

"Shirley was everybody's auntie," Dennis said. "She wanted to make sure her students succeeded, loved taking care of people and was involved with the community."

Shirley, the second youngest of six siblings, was a "mother figure" even as a child, eventually taking care of their aging mother when she grew older, Dennis said. "She was a confidante, the kind of person you would go to with problems, and she would be like your own personal sounding board, a great listener."

The same compassion extended to her work when, at age 19, she received a licensed practicing nurse degree from Midlands Technical College in Columbia. She continued working as a nurse in the gerontology department for 30 years before becoming head of the nursing department at Midlands, which she did for seven years.

Dennis, Demetria, and Shirley Bannister at Demetria's college graduation.
Dennis, Demetria, and Shirley Bannister at Demetria's college graduation.Shirley Bannister

Demi inherited her mother's generosity and commitment to helping others by pursuing a teaching career. "Demetria was almost a spitting image of Shirley — in her mannerisms and the way she carried herself," Dennis said.

Demi was a voracious learner who was unafraid to try new things, Dennis said. "She loved mentoring kids and making learning fun," he said. "She wanted to transfer that energy and passion to younger people."

Demi, who started her education path five years ago, was a third grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School, where she was known as "Windsor's Songbird," said Denise Quickel, the school's principal.

"Ms. Bannister loved her students and never missed an opportunity to advocate for students and public education," Quickel said. Demi was heavily involved in school productions, leading the school's student choir and even hosting a student club for aspiring singers.

Demi did not initially show symptoms, and all cleaning protocols were followed when she was last inside the school building on Aug. 28, the school district said.

Dennis said it was unclear how she contracted the virus, because the school year started remotely, but she tested positive on Sept. 4 and was hospitalized before passing away three days later.

Shirley had diabetes and asthma before she reported COVID-19 symptoms, Dennis said. She tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized a week before her death on Sept. 27.

A double funeral service was scheduled for Saturday.

The inseparable duo were "loving and driven women," Dennis said. They weren't just educators, he said, but also avid scrapbookers, family planners and "the light of any room."

Shirley and Demi are survived by Shirley's husband and Demi's father, Dennis Bannister. He tested negative for the virus.

"They were just both so committed to living life each day as its last," Dennis said. "They will be missed so much."

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