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Plans continue for McKown memorial
Drawings, new-location proposal submitted to city officials
new slt bill statue
This architects drawing illustrates the vision of the Bill McKown Memorial Committee. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

            Architectural drawings that illustrate the proposed Bill McKown Memorial statue have been submitted to Great Bend city officials, along with a suggestion about a different location.

            Previously, the committee that is requesting the use of city property suggested the southwest corner of Jack Kilby Square. Now, the request is for the northwest corner to become home to the statue of McKown in his wheelchair.

            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.

            The initial memorial proposal to the Great Bend City Council was presented April 17.

            “We are sensitive to the council’s objections to the southwest corner,” said Bob Feldt, Bill McKown Memorial Committee chairman. “Therefore, we re-evaluated our request and realized the northwest corner would be even better.”

            Feldt noted the northwest corner is rarely, if ever, used for community events. “The southern area, however, is host to many festivals, craft fairs, City Band performances and holiday-related events. We certainly don’t want to disrupt that; Bill wouldn’t appreciate it at all.”

            There has been talk about placing the statue in Veterans Park or Brit Spaugh Park. The committee is “adamantly against” those alternatives, Feldt commented.

            “Bill deserves to be out in front on Main Street,” Feldt explained. “The other locations remind me of what we always seem to do with handicapped people. We want to put them out of the way.

            “If Bill’s statue is placed off the beaten path, it would be a real slap in the face – not only to Bill but to others who face tremendous obstacles. It would diminish all of them.”

            Feldt emphasized that the community should consider the many things McKown did and continues to do for his hometown.

            “Bill helped countless people with his time, talent and money,” Feldt noted. “His philanthropy continues to this day because Bill donated quite a sum of money to endowments for local organizations.”

            Included are the Brit Spaugh Zoological Society, Barton County Arts Council, Kiwanis Club, Barton Community College, Camp Kanza and Camp Aldrich.

            “Bill could have lived anywhere but he loved Great Bend,” Feldt noted. “This memorial could be a small token of our appreciation.”




            The McKown statue will be unique, Feldt said, because there are no others that depict a particular person in a wheelchair – with the exception of President Franklin Roosevelt.

            “There are statues of handicapped people represented as they were before their injuries,” Feldt said. “And some are generic, such as a nameless child in a wheelchair at a medical facility.

            “Advocates for the handicapped are showing interest in our plans,” Feldt continued. “They realize Bill’s memorial would inspire others. He led a full, active life despite his 38 years in a wheelchair pursuing his art, scouting and many other interests.”

            McKown was a familiar presence at local community events, which were not easy for him to attend, Feldt said. At a national level, McKown was the Kansas delegate to the President’s Commission for the Handicapped, predecessor to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

            The committee is seeking private donations for the monument, and will determine if public money and grants are available. Donations may be sent to: Bill McKown Memorial Fund, Great Bend Foundation, P.O. Box 365, Great Bend, Ks. 67530.