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Campaign begins to honor McKown for many contributions to Great Bend

POSTED March 15, 2017 10:52 a.m.

               When Bob Feldt started to realize just how much he missed his old friend, Bill McKown, he wondered if others might be feeling the same way. He discovered they were.

            As a result, the recently formed Bill McKown Memorial Committee is launching a fundraising campaign to build a monument to one of the best friends Great Bend has ever had, Feldt said.

            McKown passed away March 19, 2014, after living a more-than-full life as a quadriplegic. He suffered spine and neck injuries in a traffic accident on Aug. 11, 1975, near Fresno, Ca. He was only 19.

            “Bill represented all the good in the human spirit,” Feldt said. “We often celebrate this spirit in real life and even in the movies. We rise up and cheer for those who overcome adversity. It is time to rise up for Bill and remember his countless contributions to his community.”

            The first step is seeking approval from the Great Bend City Council to erect a life-size likeness of McKown in his wheelchair. The committee’s first choice is the southwest side of Jack Kilby Square.

            “It really needs to be on city property in this community that Bill devoted his life to,” Feldt commented. “Other possibilities are the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo or Veterans Park. But we really hope the memorial can be downtown where more people might be able to enjoy it.”

            While McKown’s accomplishments are many, Feldt offered just a brief outline. He was Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 155; held many positions at the prestigious National Boy Scout Philmont Ranch in New Mexico; and received numerous scouting awards.

            McKown served as the Kansas delegate to the President’s Commission for the Handicapped. He also devoted his time and talents to the Kiwanis Club, Great Bend Jaycees, Barton County Arts Council, Brit Spaugh Zoological Society, Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Cheyenne Bottoms, Relay for Life, Panther Booster Club and Cougar Booster Club.

            “Bill was an incredible human being,” Feldt said. “His spirit was unconquerable. We all make excuses for not achieving our potential and for not overcoming the bad cards we may have been dealt.

            “Bill wouldn’t allow the bad hand he was dealt to defeat him. And his was about as bad as it could be. Yet somehow, through his faith, family and community, he rose above it. Any one of the things he did would be worthy of recognition. We can look upon him with awe.”

            Feldt’s fellow committee members are Paul Snapp, Don Halbower, the Rev. Bill Johnson, Leroy Weathers, Todd Armatys, Carl Anderson and David McKown, Bill’s brother.

            Each member knew McKown in a special way, Feldt said, noting he met his friend through scouting and a shared passion for the arts.

            “Bill was always interested in everyone and everything,” Feldt commented. “He didn’t want to be held back. He didn’t think about his limitations, which made others comfortable to be around him.

            “We became close friends,” Feldt continued. “I took him on outings in his specialized van. I went to his house and he came to mine. I will forever miss those visits.”

            The committee is seeking private donations for the monument, and will determine if there are possibilities for public money and grants.

            Donations may be sent to: Bill McKown Memorial Fund, Great Bend Foundation, P.O. Box 365, Great Bend, Ks. 67530.

COMMENTS

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Bubba: March 20, 2017 9:36 p.m.

Frequently my brother Bill McKown would tell people inquiring about what living in a wheelchair was like that -
"It takes a Village to raise a Quad" and he meant exactly that,. Bill relied on the entire town just to be able to get around day to day even if it was someone to hold a door open for him.
Bill loved Great Bend but mostly it's people. He always had many suggestions of places he should move to that had better medical services, or weather & scenic beauty, where more activities are available or what big cities offer and Bill would not even listen or consider leaving Great Bend. He knew his GBD friends & immediate family, the local labor pool to hire from (important when you rely on someone else for everything you do), community organizations & events would be welcoming to him & his wheelchair, folks here did not look at him like a freak, they were willing to help him but also learn what assistance he needed, businesses and buildings were willing to be accommodating to disabled folks (Bill was a Trailblazer for other people with disabilities) plus all of the good personality traits, habits & worth ethics that come from a Midwest Biblebelt town like Great Bend.
Not only was Bill Great Bend's #1 Ambassador he also had the highest rate of attendance for all events held in and around Great Bend. Even with his physical limitations you would always see Bill supporting good causes nearly everyday. Great Bend actually was a big part of his lifestyle.
The family is very pleased that Bill's fantastic friends Bob Feldt, Chet Cale, their Committee and GBD"s City Fathers for the consideration of erecting a bronze statue of Bill (with privately donated money) to forever memorialize what he meant to Great Bend and what it meant to him.
Thanks, David McKown



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