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Wally Straub posthumously awarded ‘Citizen of the Year’ by Great Bend Chamber of Commerce

POSTED February 19, 2011 12:09 p.m.

Nearly a month after his death, at the age of 79, Wally Straub is being honored for a lifetime of community support and involvement. The lifetime area resident earned the award of "Citizen of the Year" posthumously during the 89th-annual Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Banquet held Saturday night at the Highland Convention Center, Great Bend. The Straub family accepted the award on Wally’s behalf.

"We are so honored," said Wally’s son, Ron. "He was very deserving of it even though he would be the first one to make sure it was given to someone else."

As a business owner in 1982, knowing his staff would be out of work in a fledgling oil industry, Wally changed his business from oilfield service to an International Harvester dealership. That dealership became Straub International and today has more than 125 employees, serving six locations around the state.

Wally quit high school after two years because his family needed help on the farm, but he continued to be a lifelong learner. He had an insatiable appetite for reading and studying and did so during his leisure time. Fittingly, Wally was instrumental in helping to bring the Case New Holland training program to Barton Community College in 1995 that has trained more than 4,500 Case New Holland technicians and sales reps the past 16 years. He was recognized and honored by College and CNH representatives last August for his work with the program.

Wally was a member of Prince of Peace Church, the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Masonic Lodge., Great Bend. During his time as a business leader, he served on boards for Argonne Rebels, First National Bank, Central Kansas Development and the Petroleum Club. He was a major contributor to MyTown LP, B-29 Memorial, Streetscape, Barton County Food Bank, Holy Family School and numerous other organizations.

"He was so involved with so many things because he wanted to help everybody," said Ron about his father. "That’s just the kind of guy he was. If somebody came to ask him or this company for something, they always left with something. We try to continue that spirit with our company today."

Selection of this year’s winner was atypical from the normal process. Ron serves as the current chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors, and normally the Citizen award is a surprise award to the recipient. The current board made its selection without Ron present and surprised him with its decision instead. Ron was able to notify his father of the news a few weeks before Wally’s passing.

"We could not let this man pass without knowing this was happening," explained Ron. "In the emergency room two weeks before his death, I informed him that the Chamber of Commerce was bestowing "Citizen of the Year" upon him. He got very emotional and was awestruck. He talked about it several more times through those last two weeks. It meant a lot to him. It’s nice that the Chamber has found a way to bestow this honor upon him."

Previous "Citizen of the Year" Recipients

2009 Bob Dema

2008 Sheryl Cheely

2007 Bob Parrish

2006 Bill Berryman

2005 Terry & MelEasa Stueder

2004 Ron Koelsch

2003 Danny Biggs

2002 Jean Cavanaugh

2001 Orville Huss

2000 Mark Calcara

1999 LeRoy Dringmann

1998 Don Whelan

Citizen of the Year Criteria

Annually, the Chamber recognizes outstanding service by an individual who contributes to the quality of life in Great Bend. The award winner is also someone who gives of his time, talent and energy to help the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce excel. Additionally, the award recognizes people who provide outstanding service to the community, or it recognizes people who have excelled in their chosen professions and serve as role models in the community.

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