‘Dockstar’ Stephen Bannar remembered
For many people, a trip to the hospital or the doctor’s office awakens anxiety and fear.
Dr. Stephen Bannar had the rare ability to alleviate those feelings by relating to patients on a personal level. While it seemed a unique way to practice medicine, it was more a characteristic at the core of who he was.
“He had the whole package,” said Chris Proctor, administrative director of Barton Health’s Tahoe Center for Orthopedics. “He could sit there with you and relate with you on any level. Then he could walk into the (operating room) and just do amazing surgery.”
Bannar, 55, was found dead Dec. 13 while visiting family back in New Jersey. His death was ruled a suicide, according to the Gloucester County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Bannar also had an office on Mica Drive in Indian Hills.
News of his passing sent grief and disbelief through the South Shore community. Over his more than two decades in Tahoe, Bannar left a mark on countless lives.
“He was a ‘dockstar.’ Not a rockstar, a ‘dockstar,” said Todd Offenbacher, a friend and patient of Bannar.
“It’s just devastating.”
Hundreds took to social media to share their stories about how Bannar helped them — helped them get back on the hill, helped keep the faith during difficult times.
“Dr. Bannar was an integral part of this community. As a doctor, and a community member he was as well regarded as they come. He gave more than 20 years to the people of South Lake Tahoe. He helped people get well and made the community better in the process,” Mayor Brooke Laine said in a statement.
Those who were close with him have no shortage of memorable stories.
There was the time he performed surgery on Proctor’s Jack Russell on Easter Sunday in his kitchen. The dog had cancer and needed to have its leg amputated. Facing a steep medical bill, the Proctors were considering having the dog euthanized.
Bannar recruited the local anesthesiologist and another local surgeon and successfully amputated the leg using his kitchen table as an operating table.
“Frontier medicine. That was him at his best,” Proctor said with a chuckle.
Colleen Preston first started working with Bannar when she was 19. She recalled how at her wedding her father in law was dealing with knee issues. Bannar gave him a shot of a Toradol so he could dance at the wedding.
“He was an amazing friend and caregiver,” Preston said.
Bannar was quintessentially Tahoe. He attempted to blaze a new fashion trend: lab coat and snow pants.
“We had to change our dress code because of him,” Proctor joked.
In his memory, Barbara Bannar, Dr. Bannar’s widow and a longtime LTUSD school board member, has created the Stephen Bannar, MD Memorial Fund c/o Lake Tahoe Unified School District.
The fund was created “in recognition of Dr. Bannar’s care and concern for adolescent mental health,” according to an announcement from the district. Funds will help provide essential mental health services for LTUSD students.
Memorial donations can be made online at http://www.ltedf.org/ or by check made payable to “LTUSD” with “Dr. Bannar Memorial Fund” noted in the memo and delivered to the district office, 1021 Al Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150.