When one thinks of making a list of notable people in a community, the names and accomplishments tend toward the good. Unfortunately, to the chagrin of city officials and chambers of commerce, sometimes infamous people also can shape a community. Here are a few people who brought Olathe notoriety.
150. John Robinson
Until John Robinson’s arrest in 2000, the most infamous person convicted of murder in the county was Richard Grissom. That changed when authorities found the remains of two women inside 55-gallon barrels on Robinson’s farm in Linn County. By the time investigators were done, Robinson had killed several women in two states and was suspected of killing others as far back as the 1980s. It brought international attention to the city that many outsiders could not pronounce its name correctly.
149. William Quantrill
William Quantrill is one of the most reviled men in Kansas. The proslavery raider of Missouri burned towns and killed many Kansans during the Civil War years. His treacherous ways, however, helped shape the fledging town of Olathe. Quantrill and his raiders attacked Olathe on Sept. 7, 1862, ransacking houses and killing several people. The raid had a profound effect, almost destroying the town. In their haste, however, the raiders destroyed the proslavery paper, the pro-Democrat Herald instead of the Republican Mirror, which later in years became the Olathe Daily News and now The Olathe News. The city survived and began to rebuild following the Civil War.
148. Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith
Very few people had heard about Olathe in its first 100 years of history. Even fewer people in America had heard of Holcomb until Hickock and Smith in 1959 slayed Herbert Clutter, a wealthy farmer from Holcomb, his wife and two children. The two cities forever were etched in history when Truman Capote chronicled the murders in his book “In Cold Blood.” Later, a movie based on the book was partly filmed in Olathe.
147. David Harmon (Melinda Raisch and Mark Manglesdorf)
David Harmon is well known among family and friends for his friendliness, kindness and loyalty. Unfortunately, he became best known as the victim of a murder conspiracy committed by his wife, Melinda “Harmon” Raisch, and friend Mark Mangelsdorf. His murder went unsolved for almost 20 years, until Olathe detectives reopened the cold case four years ago. It was a conspiracy wrought with lies, wanted love and brutality, and ended with the arrest and guilty pleas of Mangelsdorf and Raisch, bringing an end to Olathe’s longest unsolved mystery. The case became the subject of two documentaries, several national television shows, newspaper and magazine stories worldwide.
Although marked by instances of tragedy, Olathe always overcome its tragedies. It was the ingenuity, goodness and positive creativity of residents that shaped what is now the fifth largest city in Kansas. And these are the people that have helped make Olathe a great community.
146. Dennis Pratt
Few people know Dennis Pratt, who has worked at The Olathe News for several years and lives in Olathe. But he represents all the people who won’t make the list. He works more than 40 hours a week, has had a lifetime of ups and downs, but finds a way to succeed and touch the lives of those around him. He is only one person, but part of the thousands of people who shape and mold Olathe each day.
145. The Post family
It’s not the tragic slaying of half the Post family, but the recovery and determination of the surviving family members to improve justice in Kansas that guarantees them a place on the list. Robert and Jeannie Post and their children Diane, James, Susan and Richard were killed Sept. 20, 1980, when a bomb ripped apart their Olathe home. The surviving siblings Mike, Joe, Cindy Post Foster, David, Lori Joray Post and grandson Randy have fought to keep Danny Crump behind bars. Crump was convicted and sentence to six life sentences, but under old Kansas law, he was eligible for parole within 15 years. The family spoke against Crump’s release, and the parole board kept Crump behind bars for another three years, the maximum amount allowed by law regulating parole. After that first hearing, the Post family contacted state legislators and even testified in the House and Senate about changing parole law. Thanks to the Post family’s efforts, the parole board can keep an inmate behind bars for up to 10 years before he or she can have another hearing. The Post family’s efforts have given Kansas families justice, but also saved them from having to relive their tragedies every one to three years at parole hearings.
144. Terry Clark
Terry Clark has lived in the Olathe community for several years, but in the past five years he has emerged as a grassroots activist. His conservative perspective has been a beacon for some and a constant agitation for others. His popularity led to a short stint as a conservative radio talk show host, but it is his ability to shed light on issues and views of government officials that brought him comparison to another Olathe community activist, Bob Huggins.
143. Bob Huggins
Those close to Bob Huggins knew him by his nickname, “Mutt” Huggins. He was one of those controversial figures, whom people either liked or hated — the latter mostly by politicians and their supporters. He was a grassroots community activist that could stir support or stir opposition for any issue facing Olathe or the county. At one time, people said, “If Bob Huggins opposed something, it wouldn’t happen.”
142. Tim Prohaska
Most people in Olathe wouldn’t know Tim Prohaska if they met him, but in his short time in Olathe, the grassroots movement he put in motion will affect the way people vote in the future. Dissatisfied with what he thought was unequal representation on the Olathe school board, he started a petition drive to change the way board members were elected. He obtained enough signatures and voters later approved the issue, which changed board elections from at-large to district representation. This opened the door for residents to be represented on the board by someone who lived in their area.
141. Jim Churchman
Jim Churchman is a newcomer compared to the families who have served the community of Olathe. Churchman, however, represents the changing landscape of the city. Although he has served on the Olathe School Board for a short time, his influence and views have changed the way the school board viewed several significant issues.
140. Darren Sproles
Darren Sproles is one of the most celebrated running backs in Olathe high school football. His success, however, reached far beyond the boundaries of the city. He was a Heisman hopeful, set new records at Kansas State University and now enjoys a career with the San Diego Chargers in the National Football League. He is a hero to some and an inspiration to many in Olathe athletics.
139. Bob Boggs
Bob Boggs put Olathe on the map in the martial arts world. He could be considered an international ambassador of sorts; his skill in martial arts has won him world championships and had led him to rub elbows with well-known people.
138. Kavya Shivashankar
Kavya Shivashankar is Olathe’s youngest notable. At the age of 10, she qualified for the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in 2006 and placed in the top 10. She wasn’t done, however. This year she again qualified when she won the Olathe bee and again placed in the top 10 at the national competition. She won’t give up. She promised to return and will now take her third to the national bee in May.
137. Craig Eymann
Craig Eymann is considered one of Olathe’s top high-end developers. He was the visionary for Cedar Creek, Olathe’s most exclusive residential area, and expanded that vision into a business park with hopes of building a larger commercial development.
136. Teri and Matt Zenner
Teri Zenner was a social worker trying to make a difference in the world. She was killed by one of her mental health clients in 2004. It was a brutal, senseless killing that left Matt Zenner a widower with a daughter to raise on his own. But out of the tragedy, Matt started on a campaign to better train and protect social workers not only in Kansas but throughout the United States.
135. Janet Thiessen
Janet Thiessen came to the Olathe Police Department during a time when two police chiefs in a row left under difficult circumstances. Being the first female police chief wouldn’t be easy, but she made the transition appear seamless. She has proven to be a good leader of the third largest law enforcement department in the county.
134. Mattie Uphaus
Few people have met Mattie Uphaus and not come away inspired. Her spirit for God and community led this woman to help pioneer one of the largest churches in the Olathe community, College Church of the Nazarene, and was a popular teacher at MidAmerica Nazarene University. This modest woman’s dedication to God, the church, MNU and the community was so strong, she one time donated an entire year’s salary to help her church enhance and grow its ministry to the Olathe community.
133. Bob Fry
There are few people who at least haven’t heard of Dr. Bob Fry, and there are few youth who didn’t receive braces from his practice. Fry, however, has contributed to the Olathe community for many years.
132. Helen Hunter Voigts
Helen Voigts has taught several generations in Olathe and the regional area. Her dedication as a public school teacher will live on in the hundreds if not thousands she has taught.
131. Ethel Brewer
If there were a contest for the sweetest woman in Olathe, Ethel Brewer would win hands down. Her gentle spirit and her dedication to the senior residents of Olathe does and will have a long lasting impact on the community.
130. Octave Chanute
Although Octave Chanute is known as the founder of Lenexa, he was one of Olathe’s founding fathers. He, along with JT Barton and others, was one of the architects of Johnson County. He was a brillant inventor and railroadman.
129. Powers G. Porter
Porters came to Olathe in 1914 as principal of Lincoln Elementary School, the school for black children in Olathe. He planned the building of a new Lincoln on the same site of the two-room schoolhouse at 414 W. Spruce St. The new school included a gymnasium and auditorium. Although he served only a short time in Olathe, he had a profound affect on the education of black children in the community and served as an educator in Kansas until his retirement in 1949. He returned to Olathe after he retired.
128. D.W. Wallingford and Elizabeth Swartz
Wallingford and Swartz weren’t significant pioneers in Olathe’s history, except they were the first coupled married in the small town in the early months of 1857. They married four days after they met. Although they will forever be written down in history as Olathe’s first couple, there is no record of their union in Johnson County marriage records. The first recorded marriage was Charles Osgood to Caroline Roberts on June 15, 1857.
127. C.R. Jenkins
C.R. Jenkins was more famous dead than alive. He was the first person to die in Olathe. He died from complications of a knee wound. The carpenter cut his knee with an ax.
126. E.M. Annette
E.M. Annette was the first official school teacher in Olathe. She taught in a building erected in 1868 by Dick Taylor, the son of the 12th president of the United States, Zachary Taylor.
125. Frank Hodges
Frank Hodges was elected mayor of Olathe in 1899. Under his leadership, the city build the first waterworks and sewage system. He also began a road system. He accomplished all of this in one four-year term.
124. Hebert Hadley
Hebert Hadley was one of five Olathe natives to be elected governor of a state. Hadely was elected governor of Missouri in 1908.
123. Earl Milton Collier
Earl Milton Collier was the first Olathe causality of World War I. He was killed at Belleau Wood in 1918. His name lives on through the Olathe American Legion — Earl Collier Post 153.
122. Harlan H. Harper and Don W. Roberds
Harper and Roberds were the first Olathe casualties of the World War II.
121. James C. Donham
Donham was the first Olathe causality of the Korean War. He died Sept. 24. 1950.
120. Laura Zeligman
Laura Zeligman will go down as one of the most civic minded teenagers in Olathe. Although she’s in her 20s now, at 18 she had already volunteered for more civic organizations than most adults do in their life time. The Olathe East graduate had volunteered in Olathe Youth Congress, Olathe Youth Court, Olathe Teen Council, Kansas Association for Youth and Vote Olathe by her senior year. She was a member of the National Honors Society, French National Honors Society and Math Club. She impressed leaders in Vote Olathe, and they named her co-chair of the organization. A title no teenager had achieved before her. Her volunteer work started in kindergarten, when she did community work with the Girl Scouts.
119. Bette Rogers
Until recently, Bette Rogers was Director of Marra Museums at the Deaf Cultural Center. If you wanted to know anything about deaf and hard of hearing history in Olathe, she was the one to contact. The Deaf Cultural Center took several years to go from plan to mortar, but once its doors opened, Rogers took over and made the center a respectable historical and educational center in Olathe.
118. Ed May
Every student in the district probably had visited one of Ed May’s naturalist classes at Olathe South High School, mainly to observe his collection of reptiles. May was one of the more respected teachers in the district — sponsoring the Olathe South Student Naturalist program for 15 years — who put his lessons into practical application. Before his death in 2004, he coordinated a community service outreach program between Olathe South and the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District to clean up several city parks. May is one of those teachers students always will remember and one who cannot be replaced. He left an indelible mark on the school and community. South established a community service day in his honor called “May Day.”
117. Bob Hughes
It’s hard to calculate Bob Hughes’ impact on Olathe sports because the scope is so broad. Not only has he been the man behind the camera for Olathe North football for the past 26 years, he manned the camera for Olathe High School in the 1970s. As the owner of Hughes Shoes in downtown Olathe, Hughes outfitted most of the Kansas City Royals with cleats in their 1970s heyday and almost single-handedly started Olathe Night at the Royals — an event that became a civic tradition and one of the most successful ventures of its kind.
116. Vickie Smith
Vickie Smith was the first female officer of the Olathe Police Department to work in a patrol capacity. She’s served in several positions since joining the force in 1980 — patrol officer, patrol unit training officer, detective, a member of the patrol honor guard, crime prevention and community outreach. She is now one of a dozen female officers working for the department today, but she was a true Olathe pioneer in her profession.
115. Indian Jim
James Garfield Brown, an Oneida Indian, was born in 1880. At least that is how the story goes because his history is murky, filled with contradicting stories at times. His claim to fame is laying 46,664 bricks in less than eight hours to help build Kansas City Road. He was a champion brick layer, never defeated in a bricklaying contest, and was a self-proclaimed “Worlds Champion Bricklayer.” His skill was well known, and he went on to pave several streets in towns and cities in Kansas and other states.
114. Curtis Smith
Curtis Smith was the first president of what was then called MidAmerica Nazarene College. He helped establish a higher education institution that would later become a university and train the future leaders of Olathe.
113. Ernest Miller
Ernest “Ernie” Miller wrote a newspaper column, “Dresser Drawer,” that became a community favorite. But he was more than a columnist. Miller was the editor of the Olathe Mirror from 1939 to 1952. His position as a community journalist influenced public opinion, but also chronicled the community, its people and history. His love of Olathe was obvious through his writing and community participation. The Chamber of Commerce named him the first Mr. Olathe in 1964.
112. Bert Rogers
Today, Bert Rogers is best known as the father of the once famous actor Charles “Buddy” Rogers. Bert, however, was somewhat of a well known figure throughout Olathe and the county in his day. He became editor of the Olathe Mirror in 1920, a position he served in for 20 years. He was well liked and well known. It was once written that he knew almost everyone in the county.
111. William Strang
William B. Strang didn’t live in Olathe and did more personally for Overland Park, but his ambition to create an interurban transportation system in the early 1900s mobilized Olathe, making it possible for people to live in Olathe but have access to downtown Kansas City during a time when many people did not own an automobile.
110. Velma Varnes
Velma Varnes died in 2005, but she left behind an educational legacy. She was a school teacher the majority of her life and wouldn’t want it any other way. Many students owe their success to this woman, who dedicated herself to making sure everyone she taught received a proper education.
109. Bob Enright
A part of Olathe’s history lies within the mind and hands of Bob Enright. Enright has lived in Olathe a majority of his life, and he’s collected many artifacts about his hometown’s history. It would be easy to say that without Enright, part of Olathe would be lost. Much of his collection will find a home when the museum and visitor center is build at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm.
108. Bob Courtney
Bob Courtney has a dual role in Olathe, he’s the Olathe school district’s energy manager, but he’s also president of the Olathe Historical Society. Theirs some irony in his two roles. As energy manager he makes sure the lights go off in the school district, but as president of the historical society he hopes the lights go on for people when it comes to local history. He has been innovated in making the district energy efficient, recently experimenting with wind and solar power, and has been a leader in preserving Olathe’s history, but also finding ways to share that history with the public.
107. Bob Millbern
Bob Millbern left Olathe for a while, but after his return, he has immersed himself in the Olathe community, especially concentrating on honoring military veterans. Being a veteran himself, he has taken on such projects as the Four Chaplains, who served in the military, but had never been honored for their service. Millbern raised enough funds to establish a memorial in their honor in the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Olathe.
106. Anna Sutton and WC Keefer
Sutton and Keefer both served as Old Settlers Officers, but they forever were linked in Olathe’s history as they became two passengers who made the first trip on the Strang Line. Then both were present for the Strang Line’s final trip.
105. Ron Cousino
An Olathe School Board member from 1995 to 1999, Cousino tried to shake up the board in the late 1990s. He formed a coalition of school board challengers who differed with then Superintendent Ron Wimmer’s views about the opening of a fourth high school, the need for an internal auditor and that parents weren’t allowed to provide enough input. The coalition resulted in Wimmer endorsing the incumbents in a letter published in the Olathe Daily News. The endorsement was unusual for a person in Wimmer’s position, an appointee of the school board.
104. Jerry Davidau
Davidau was the owner of the largest furniture retail business in Olathe’s history, Benchmark. The store closed after larger retailers came into the area, such as Nebraska Furniture Mart in the early 2000s, but when Davidau opened Benchmark there was no other retail furniture business in the area of its size or had the same sales volume. He also was an active member of the community — a member of the TLC 2004 For the Children campaign drive, and he participated in other organizations and events.
103. Brent McCune
McCune was named Citizen of the Year by the Olathe Chamber of Commerce in 2003. He served as chair of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for nearly two terms. He also was a chair of the Johnson County Chamber Presidents Council.
102. Dick Buzbee
Buzbee was a publisher and editor for the Olathe Daily News from 1962 to 1979. He was a vocal supporter of Urban Renewal in Olathe. One year he headed the Bring ‘Em Home Campaign to bring troops home for Christmas.
101. Dave Stewart
An area sports TV and talk radio personality for more than 25 years, Stewart made his home in Olathe from 1984 to 2005. Stewart began his career at KMBZ radio in Kansas City, Mo., in 1980, joined what is now KSHB-TV in Kansas City after less than a year and then left to cover sports in Iowa for 2 1/2 years before returning to Kansas City at KMBC-TV in 1984. He spent 17 years at KMBC, the last four as its sports director. In 2001, Stewart left KMBC and joined Metro Sports as its senior anchor. He also joined WHB radio in 2003. Stewart’s honors include two regional Emmy awards, and in 1999 he was named best TV sports reporter by area journalists.
100. John Andrade
Regular attendees to Olathe City Council meetings are familiar with Andrade, who greets everyone with a wide smile and a firm handshake. It seems as though he’s been a longtime Olathe resident by the sure measure of his civic involvement; however, he only has lived here a decade. Andrade rarely misses a council meeting, often occupying a seat in the first row. He’ll often be seen at Johnson County Commission meetings or any gathering that deals with transportation-related issues. No member of the community is more visible than Andrade, and few are as active. One of Andrade’s most recent roles was as a member on the city’s Sesquicentennial Committee, which organized the celebration of Olathe’s 150th anniversary.
99. AG Boone
Boone was one of the members of the founding Olathe Town Company. The company was founded on May 17, 1857. Territorial legislation incorporated Olathe on Feb. 11, 1858.
98. Charles Osgood
Osgood was one of the members who joined the Olathe Town Company. He later owned a one-story building that was used as a grocery and dry goods store, saloon, post office and hotel.
97. Henry W. Jones
Jones was one of the members of the Olathe Town Company. He joined founder John T. Barton when Barton found that only groups could register land.
96. Arlen Siegfreid
In a short time as a state Representative for Olathe, Siegfried has become a respected leader. He has taken on a wide variety of issues, from getting salary increases for the Kansas School for the Deaf teachers to decreasing taxes for residents and businesses. In a few years, he’s made an impact on Olathe and the state.
95. Kevin Gilmore
Gilmore is a familiar name in local politics. He currently serves as the president of the Olathe District Schools Board of Education. He is a past chair of the state Board of Education. Gilmore also serves as the president and CEO of Security Savings Bank in Olathe. Who knows what’s in store for the young community leader in the future.
94. Steve Baker
Baker shepherded the move of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics from Tulsa to Olathe. The move was heralded as a sign Olathe had arrived on the national scene. In 2007, however, the NAIA moved its headquarters to Kansas City, Mo.
93. Kay Lowe
Lowe was the architect of the successful Discover Olathe event that ran from 2004 to 2006. She brought together Olathe’s volunteer agencies at the event that introduced new Olathe residents to the variety of ways they could get involved in their community.
92. Charles Sunderland
Sunderland is the chair of the Ash Grove Cement Company, the largest American-owned cement producer. His connection to Olathe is the company’s development of the 4,000-acre Cedar Creek property, the city’s first high-end residential development.
91. Jim Smith
Smith was a principal at Indian Trail Junior High School and now is director of community development for the Olathe school district. Smith has raised thousands of dollars for a variety of Olathe causes, including summer school tuition and the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund and Prayer Breakfast.
90. Max Evans
Evans never lived in Olathe, but everyone who knows him thinks he’s lived here his entire life. Evans was a reporter for the Olathe Daily News in the late 1980s through the 1990s. He covered city government, crime, county government, education — heck he covered just about everything to do with Olathe. His ability to write about the average Joe and then be able to hob-knob with the who’s who of Olathe won him a place in many people’s hearts. He went to work for the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm site in the late 1990s through early 2000s and now works for the Kansas City Zoo. But he hasn’t stopped tinkering in Olathe, most recently participating in the Sesquicentennial Committee, and he still writes an Olathe history column for The Olathe News. If Olathe had an adopted son, it would be Max Evans.
89. AJ Lang
Lang has been in the rental and real estate business for years in Olathe. He’s been involved in a variety of community activities and organizations throughout the years, but he is best known for his years of volunteer work with the Old Settlers Celebration.
88. Tim McKee
Many residents may not know Tim McKee, but he’s been a key person in bringing some of the biggest developments to Olathe. Vice president of economic development, McKee is the point man when it comes to selling Olathe to businesses looking to relocate or expand. Although many key political figures take credit for some of Olathe’s most recent developments, McKee deserves part of that credit.
87. Bob Maile
Maile has been superintendent at Kansas School for the Deaf since 2000. He has set a vision for the school of people being judged by their contributions and their character. Maile’s staff’s salaries have grown and student test scores have improved under his leadership.
86. Ray Barmby
Olathe’s mayor from 1987 to 1989 and a councilmember from 1993 to 1997, Barmby lost his bid for a second term as mayor in 1995 to Larry Campbell. Barmby opposed giving tax incentives to developers to build at 119th Street and Strang Line Road, what now is the nearly 400,000-square-foot Olathe Station shopping center. Northridge Plaza, across the street, and Olathe Pointe at 119th and Black Bob Road, which opened last year, have been developed in that area. Barmby also may be remembered for receiving a public reprimand from the City Council in 1994 for an ethics violation for trying to use his status as a councilmember to resolve a billing problem with his cable company. Barmby denied the allegations and was cleared of any possible criminal wrongdoing by then Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison. Despite that pothole in his road or civic activity, Barmby was someone who cared about Olathe’s progress and how local government dealt with the city’s rapid growth.
85. Dennis Meyer
The protégé of RR Osborne, Meyer was one of only four presidents of First National Bank of Olathe after it was purchased by Ray Clasnapp in 1970. In the bank’s 120 years of history, there has been only 11 CEOs. Meyer retired in 2001. He’s served a number of community service organizations and boards, and Olathe has been more than a place to work and do business for Meyer: It has been his community.
84. Larry Huckleberry
A former Olathe mayor from 1978 to 1981 and longtime city councilmember, Huckleberry also was a local developer. He put together the land deal that brought the Great Mall of the Great Plains to Olathe.
83. Steve Hougland
Hougland is the son of former Johnson County District Judge Gerald Hougland and Olathe civic leader Betty Hougland, who was the first female president of the Olathe Rotary Club; an active member of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce and served on boards for the Olathe Medical Center and Olathe YMCA. Hougland, a former longtime member and past president of the Olathe School Board, unsuccessfully bid in 1996 for the Republican nomination for the 23rd District Kansas Senate seat after Olathe Republican Mark Parkinson said he would not seek re-election. Hougland lost the Republican bid to Karin Brownlee, an Olathe Republican, who was elected and since has held the seat.
82. WL Frye
William Lawrence Frye was the first licensed embalmer in the state. He actually helped write the requirements for licensing in 1900. This was after he had worked in the funeral services business for seven years. He started when he was 14 and expanded his entrepreneurial dreams to include the furniture market. His funeral service was the first licensed funeral business in the county. The mortuary and crematorium, W.L. Frye and Son, has been at the corner of Loula and Cherry streets since 1926. The business was sold to Warren J. Newcomer Jr. and Jeffrey J. Newcomer in 1979.
81. Paul Hubbard
Hubbard was famous for inventing the football huddle at Gallaudet University and later introducing it at the Kansas School for the Deaf in the mid-1900s. His reason for using the huddle is to prevent other football teams from reading the quarterback’s sign language on play selections. Hubbard was a popular teacher and coach for KSD for many years, and the school’s football field is named after him. Hubbard’s legacy continued with his children. Hubbard’s son Maurice Hubbard was city attorney for Olathe for many years in the 1940s to 1960s. Hubbard’s grandson, Jim Hubbard, still is legal counsel for Olathe Medical Center, serving since the 1970s.
80. Paul Schlagel
Schlagel is synonymous with the weather. He recorded weather activity in Olathe and the county his entire life, and for years he provided that information for the National Weather Service and the local media. Now in his 90s, he still keeps track of each day’s weather, although in an unofficial capacity.
79. Albert I. Beach
Beach was born July 20, 1883, in Olathe. He later became mayor of Kansas City, Mo., from 1923 to 1929. He was the last mayor to serve under Kansas City’s old council form of government, which changed in 1930. He was the cousin of Herbert Hadley, an Olathe resident who later became governor of Missouri.
78. Earl A. Ames
Ames, who graduated from Olathe High School in 1909, was awarded the Carnegie Hero Medal for saving Ernest A. Albright and attempting to save Rollo W. Eastman and Thomas A. Herrman from drowning in 1906. The boys, who attended Kansas School for the Deaf, had broken through the frozen ice on a pond one Christmas afternoon.
77. Arbie Glover Jr.
Glover operated a barbershop below the First Federal Savings and Loan for many years. It was said that more community business was discussed in that shop than any other place. Glover wasn’t a governor or well-known political figure, but his contributions to community our immeasurable.
76. John J. Dold
Dold was one the founders of the Kansas Association of the Deaf in 1909. Dold was a good political leader in working with the Kansas School for the Deaf, the Kansas Legislature and KAD. KAD was established to protect the deaf school’s and deaf people’s use of American Sign Language that was being challenged by the Alexander Graham Bell Association. Bell believed in the sole use of oral communication by deaf people and for it to be taught in the state schools for the deaf.
75. Harlan C. Parker
Parker makes his living in the insurance business, but his heart is in Olathe. Parker is synonymous with the Olathe School Board, which he has served for several years as a member and president. He’s been a figure in the public school system as much as the superintendents who have served the district. He never is quick to take credit, but always says he serves “for the kids.”
74. Herb Julien
Herb Julien was one of the founders of Patrons Bank, Olathe philanthropist RR Osborne’s ticket to prosperity. He also was the namesake of Alexander Julien, one of Olathe’s longest operating businesses. It operated for years in downtown Olathe and was both a furniture store and mortuary.
73. Phill Kline
Kline never has lived in Olathe, but he comes to work here each day as the Johnson County District Attorney. Kline is a controversial figure in Kansas politics, serving in different official capacities throughout the years, but most recently as attorney general and district attorney. In 2006, he was unseated as attorney general by former Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, who just resigned this month as attorney general because of a sex scandal. People either like or dislike Kline, but that’s how he lives his life — there is no middle of the road. A conservative by nature, Kline has changed the landscape of Kansas politics, especially in the area of abortion politics. Only time will tell what historical legacy Kline will leave when he decides to retire from public office and politics.
72. CJ Cowley
Cowley bought the Lanter lumber and coal company along with Ralph Frye and eventually owned it outright in 1942. Cowley’s Lumber and Hardware company was a staple in Olathe, competing only with Hodges Brother’s Lumber Company. Cowley was involved in many civic endeavors.
71. Mike Hurd
Hurd was publisher of the Olathe Daily News in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He returned to the paper in 2001, again as publisher, taking the newspaper into a new era, which included changing the paper’s name. He once was named Man of the Year by the Olathe Chamber of Commerce.
70. Herb Shuey
Shuey’s profession was law enforcement, serving with both the Olathe Police Department and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. His passion, however, was the local community. He served in numerous civic efforts and causes and as a member of civic organizations, but he loved to learn, was dedicated to history, took on mental health issues and served in the deaf community. He donated time to the Johnson County Mental Retardation Center and Kansas School for the Deaf. Shuey had a passion for helping people and making the community a better place. He lived this at home as well: He and wife were foster parents to deaf and handicapped children.
69. Chuck Kurtz
Kurtz is one of Olathe’s own. He grew up in Olathe, and then as an adult, worked more than 30 years writing about the community with The Olathe News. He retired from the newspaper in 2001, at which time the newspaper established a college scholarship in his name for Olathe high school graduates. He’s remained active in the community, and he once ran unsuccessfully against John Toplikar for a seat on the Johnson County Commission.
68. Grace Bilger
Bilger moved to Olathe from Nebraska in 1941. She and her husband, Charles, taught at the Kansas School for the Deaf. She is best known, however, for being one of the few people who recorded Olathe’s history through painting. She painted for more than 50 years and was working on a piece when she died in 2000 at age 93.
67. Larry Parks
Parks was born in Olathe but grew up in Illinois. He wanted to study medicine, but he went into acting in the 1930s. He signed with Columbia Pictures and had a few minor roles in movies. His big break was playing the lead in the movie, “The Jolson Story.” He received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Al Jolson and starred in the sequel, “Jolson Sings Again,” in 1949. Park’s movie career ended when he became the subject of the House Un-American Activities Committee investigation in 1947.
66. Rocky Lamar
Lamar was a decent basketball player at MidAmerica Nazarene University, but it was his ability to lead that would propel him into one of the best basketball coaches in the metro area. Under Lamar’s leadership, the MidAmerica Nazarene University men’s basketball team won the NAIA Division II National Championship. Lamar has a reputation of being a fair but disciplined coach. He has coached MNU to 17 winning seasons and nine trips to the national tournament, including a runner-up finish in 2001 and a Final Four appearance in 2006. He conducts youth basketball camps every summer, molding future basketball players of Olathe and the metro area.
65. Jeff Meyers
Most Olathe residents know Meyers as the football coach at Olathe East High School, but Meyers is a true product of Olathe. He attended school in Olathe and was a star football player at Olathe High School. His interest went beyond the football field and into local politics later in life. He first ran for a seat of the Shawnee City Council and now is the mayor of Shawnee.
64. Frank R. Lanter
Lanter came to Olathe in 1873. He was a successful businessman who owned lumber and coal companies. He served as treasurer for both Olathe and Johnson County and served four years as Olathe’s postmaster. He sold his lumber and coal business to his son in 1919 and went into real estate and insurance. He died in 1935. The house he build still stands at 562 W. Park St. It was the first house in Olathe wired for electricity.
63. George R. Bauer
Bauer was an educator, author and historian. He had a wide variety of interests, mainly in the field of education, but his most prominent endeavor, in the eyes of Olathe, was his historical work, “Trails, Rails, and Tales,” in celebration of Olathe’s 150th birthday.
62. Bert Dudley
Dudley probably was the Olathe’s first recorded serial killer. But it’s the events that led to his death that have been considered a dark day in Olathe’s history. Dudely confessed to killing farmer Henry Muller and his wife, Gertrude, in 1916. He also confessed to committing four other murders in 1910. He was convicted of two counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Dudely, however, never saw the inside of a prison cell. A mob gathered outside the jail on Cherry Street in Olathe the day Dudely was to be transferred to the state prison in Lansing. The mob took him by force and drove him to a remote location where they strung him up on a telephone poll. When authorities found him, there were 15 bullet holes in his body.
61. Paul Morrison
For the majority of Morrison’s time as Johnson County District Attorney, he was a respected prosecutor who never had a solid challenger for his position. He prosecuted some of the highest profile cases in the county, including John Robinson, Deborah Green, Melinda Raisch and Mark Manglesdorf, and Richard Grissom. Even when he changed parties, from Republican to Democratic, his popularity didn’t wane — even a majority of Olathe voters, who tend to vote more conservatively, helped elect Morrison to the attorney general’s office in 2006. His popularity, however, changed when an affair he had with a co-worker went public this month, which could find him facing possible criminal charges.
60. George Washburn
Washburn was a Kansas architect who built several courthouses in Kansas, including in Olathe. He also designed and built homes, one of which was the Albert Ott House at 401 S. Harrison St. The Olathe Courthouse was an architectural marvel, but it fell to urban renewal and expansion. The courthouses still standing are listed with the Kansas and National historical societies. Washburn also designed a three-story administrative building and a dormitory for the Kansas School for the Deaf.
59. CC Pember
Pember was a prominent businessman who was involved in many civic and economic endeavors. He owned Pember Clothing Stores, which were successful but also ran into bad luck on occasion. The Pember Clothing store burned twice, once in 1932 and again in 1964. That’s probably why Pember was an early supporter of urban renewal. He served in several official capacities, including the postmaster of the first permanent post office building in Olathe.
58. Michael Wilkes
Many city managers have come and gone in Olathe and each one contributed to Olathe’s prosperity, but Michael Wilkes became city manager at the pinnacle of Olathe’s explosive commercial growth. His leadership at the helm of the city has taken Olathe to a new of level of professionalism, bringing city government and the Olathe community national recognition.
57. DR Ott
Ott was a mail carrier who had a love for music. He formed D.R. Ott and His Boys’ Band in 1913 at the instance of CB Zook. His band’s concerts became a community event that lasted into the 1950s. The band use to draw people to downtown and became so popular that the city built a bandstand with a shell, which was demolished to make room for a courthouse addition.
56. Texanna Ollenberger
Ollenberger has worked with Olathe’s teens and seniors in area choral direction for more than 30 years. She’s vivacious and determined to bring about the musical best in people. She’s received numerous recognitions and awards for her work, including being named one of the nation’s 80 outstanding educators. She started an intergenerational choir, bringing together teenagers and seniors, which has met for more than 20 years. Her favorite aspect about teaching is helping someone discover his or her vocal talent.
55. Dr. Donald Metz
Metz was the first academic dean of MidAmerica Nazarene University, serving from 1966 to 1974 and from 1976 to 1983. He was a professor from 1983 to 1985, then taught on occasion at the university, and later the university conferred upon him the title of professor emeritus. He also is known at “MNU’s Historian.” He wrote a history book about the university’s early years, “The Pioneer Years 1966-1991.”
54. Corinthian Nutter
Nutter taught at the Lincoln School for black Olathe children. She later became principal of the school for a few years until integration took place in the Olathe public school system. She became principal of Westview Elementary School, where she retired in 1972. She dedicated her entire life to the education of Olathe youth, but especially for black American children.
53. Donald M. Ashlock
Donald Merton Ashlock graduated from high school in 1919 and began work at Olathe State Bank. It would be the beginning of a lifetime in the industry. Ashlock began operations of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association at 110 E. Park St. in 1927, and the business has stayed in the family for three generations. The business is considered one of the longest continuing operations by one family in Olathe’s history. Ashlock also served as Olathe’s mayor from 1934 to 1940.
52. Lt. Stanley T. Adams
Adams was a Korean War hero who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1951 for leading a night bayonet charge against a Red Army force that outnumbered his platoon 20 to 1. The section of Kansas Highway 7/Harrison Street that runs from Old 56 Highway to the Interstate 35/West 151st Street interchange is named in his honor.
51. The Rev. Bobby L. Love
Love has been a central figure in Olathe’s black community for many years. He’s best known as the pastor of Olathe Second Baptist Church, but he also has been active in many civic endeavors. He was once the human relations manager for the city and helped establish the human relations commission that concentrates on diversity and human rights issues in Olathe.
50. John Toplikar
The name Toplikar is synonymous with area politics. John Toplikar served several years as an Olathe representative in the Kansas House and now is a Johnson County Commissioner. He’s formed a grassroots support base that has won him elections against some popular opponents throughout the years. Voters, however, continue to agree with his conservative view on taxes, but also his championing of true democracy. He believes the people should have a voice in how their government operates, not government telling people how to govern.
49. Kay O’Connor
There probably hasn’t been a more controversial figure in Kansas politics than Kay O’Connor. The Olathe conservative Republican served in the state House and later in the Senate and was known for her controversial views on several issues, but most notably her support for school choice. She never minced words, and sometimes her opinions brought her unfavorable reviews. Her staunchest critics called her crazy among other unflattering terms, but her supporters thought she was crazy like a fox. And it was this grassroots support that won her re-election each term against several popular opponents. She retired from politics after her failed 2006 campaign for Kansas Secretary of State, but she still works behind the scenes, influencing state and local party politics, and has the respect of many colleagues on both sides of the party lines.
48. Marshall Ensor
Ensor was a man of numerous interests. He taught at Olathe High School, he worked on the family farm, and he taught people how to become proficient operators in ham radio. He was a craftsman who made much of the furniture that remains at the family’s farm, which is now the Ensor Farmsite and Museum. His contribution to Olathe was his ability to teach others, whether it was industrial art or radio operations. He touched and directed many young minds during his life.
47. Ruth Nelson
There are many people in Olathe dedicated to the positive development of children, but Ruth Nelson stands out among them. She has been committed to issues involving the education, health and well-being of children for many years and has received awards for her dedication. She is governor of the Kansas Optimist, which conduct service projects aimed at helping youth, and she works as the Olathe school district’s manager of community development. But that’s only one aspect of her civic involvement. She has served on the Character Council of Olathe, Olathe Arts Alliance and the Olathe Sister Cities Committee, just to name a few. Nelson has been a stalwart in Olathe civic activity, and who knows when she’ll stop.
46. John W. Breyfogle
Breyfogle was an attorney, philanthropist, civic leader and also sat as director of Patrons State Bank and Trust Company, but he also was the owner of The Olathe Mirror. He bought The Mirror in 1847, and it was the official newspaper of Johnson County and the major newspaper of Olathe. He sold it to John P. Harris in 1959.
45. Bob Drummond
Drummond, who served as both president and vice president of the Olathe School Board, didn’t run in last April’s election. When he stepped down in May, it was the first time he didn’t sit on the board in 18 years. The president and chief executive officer of Olathe-based TLC for Children & Families, a shelter for abused and neglected children, Drummond has served as the vice president of campus life and the vice president of student development at Mid America Nazarene University.
44. Dan Eakin
Eakin made a difference in thousands of young people’s lives. He’s been involved with the Olathe Girls Softball Association since 1979 and is referred to by some as the godfather or grandfather of the organization.
43. Dave and Mick Murphy
Dave and Mick Murphy are Olathe’s version of baseball brothers Cal and Billy Ripken, Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Dom and Joe Dimaggio. But instead of the professional ranks, the brothers have put 40 years into youth baseball. Dave Murphy was one of the founders of Olathe Youth Baseball. Mick Murphy had been associated with American Legion baseball since the 1960s and ended his affiliation in 2003. It’s hard to say what would have happened to the two organizations and what opportunities youth players would have had without the Murphys.
42. Jim and Lavone French
Jim and Lavone French were Olathe. The couple moved to Olathe 1971 and started on 30 years of civic involvement. Jim was an Eagle Scout, a World War II veteran, a small business owner, a grain farmer, an Olathe historian, a campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, chair of the First Congressional District and an icon in local Republican politics. Lavone also was active in Republican politics, serving on precinct committees and women’s groups. A former hospital volunteer, she was named a lifetime member of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce for her membership efforts. As a couple, they were a dynamic duo for Olathe. Whenever there was hard work to be done to make Olathe a better place, they always were there to do their part. They were true ambassadors of Olathe.
41. George H. Hodges
Hodges was governor of Kansas from 1913 to 1915. He was the second Democrat to be elected as Kansas governor. He introduced the first bill for state printing and distribution of public school texts and was an advocate of hard-surface roads. He was elected to the Olathe City Council at age 21, which started his career in politics.
40. Ed Colson
Colson has contributed more to music education than almost anyone in Olathe’s history. Colson graduated from Olathe High School, where he played the clarinet and saxophone. After attending college and teaching and coaching in another state, Colson came back to Olathe in 1978. Hebegan his career as a band director in Olathe at Oregon Trail Junior High School and now is the director at Olathe Northwest High School. He and his wife, Judy, have instilled their love of music in thousands of Olathe students who have gone on to play music after graduating from the Olathe school system.
39. Karin Brownlee
Brownlee was elected to the Kansas Senate in 1996. She successfully has won re-election twice without much opposition. She grew up in Olathe and has committed herself to a life of civic leadership while running a business and raising a family. She has become a fixture in local and state politics and has worked her way into leadership roles in Topeka. Brownlee and her husband, Doug, have owned Patrons Mortgage Company in Olathe since 1989. And she also is an active member in the Gardner, Spring Hill and Olathe chambers of commerce. She has been involved in several civic endeavors and has been an advocate of small business in the state.
38. Gerald Hougland
Hougland was a fourth generation resident of Olathe. He practiced law here his entire life and was a district court judge. His family had owned land here for more than 150 years. Needless to say, the Hougland family has left an indelible mark on Olathe.
37. George Washington Carver
Carver was an American botanical researcher and educator who was innovative in the field of agriculture. He’s known for his association with the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Ala., and for teaching former slaves farming techniques for self-sufficiency. But few people know that he once lived and attended school in Olathe. Fleeing slavery in Missouri, Carver lived with his second parents, Ben and Lucy Seymour. He did odds jobs around town and even was a cook. He taught a class at the United Methodist Church. He taught himself to read at a young age, and education would be his life’s ambition. Carver’s fame came from his research and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. His most popular research contained 105 existing food recipes that used peanuts.
36. William G. Tainter
Tyson Foods may be the king of chicken now, but Olathe’s William Tainter owned one of the largest chicken hatcheries operating in the plains, Tainter Mammoth Hatchery, from 1913 to 1931. One year, the hatchery produced 270,000 live chicks. The hatchery shipped chickens to every state and was considered vital to Olathe’s economy for the early part of the 20th century.
35. Ed King
Edward Joseph King Jr. was an inventor and entrepreneur, but his interest always lied in the avionics industry. After working briefly for RCA building aircraft radio equipment for the Navy, he returned to the Midwest and founded Communications Accessories Corporation to build a machine he invented. He sold the company and formed King Radio Corporation to design a new, higher performance, lower cost radio for general aviation aircraft. After finding success, he moved the plant to 400 Rogers Road in Olathe. By 1984, after establishing an international market, the company employed 2,600 people and produced more than 100 avionic products. After several mergers, King Radio eventually became Bendix-King; Bendix was a subsidiary of AlliedSignal, which is now Honeywell.
34. Dr. Marvin Wollen
Wollen is known to most people as Santa Claus — a role he’s played each Christmas for numerous years. He continues that role each year at the Mayor’s Christmas Tree celebration, bringing good cheer to Olathe children. But his contribution to the city goes beyond playing Santa. Wollen has volunteered for many civic endeavors and organizations throughout the years. That’s on top of the many years he’s worked as an optometrist in the Olathe community.
33. Bud Wheeler
Coaches Jeff Meyers, Mark Littrell, Don Davis and Gene Wier can trace their football careers directly back to Bud Wheeler. Wheeler was the football coach at Olathe High School and Olathe South High School for 22 years. It is estimated that Wheeler won 300 football games and is considered one of the winningest coaches in the state. His career forever changed Olathe’s football landscape, producing successful players and coaches and raising the bar of competition in Kansas.
32. Gene Wier
Wier brought Olathe into a new era — a city of champions. Under his leadership, Olathe North High School captured six Class 6A state championships in football. In the latter part of the 1990s and early 2000s, few teams could match North’s prowess and that era turned out some of the best football players in Olathe history, including Darren Sproles.
31. Ralph Dennis
Dennis was chosen earlier this year by The Olathe News as one of the top sports figures in the city’s history. His influence, however, went beyond sports. He raised entire generations that now serve the Olathe community and other parts of nation, and many of them would say his influence, his mentoring played an important role in their lives. He wasn’t only an outstanding coach, he is an outstanding human being as well.
30. Eugene and Ruth Anne Hackler
Eugene “Gene” and Ruth Anne have accomplished so much in their lifetime each could have been listed separately in the 150 list, but their dedication to each other helped them accomplish so much more — Gene in his dedication to the legal community and the progress of Olathe, and Ruth Anne to the community at large. The Hacklers were involved in so many organizations and endeavors in developing Olathe and even the state that it would take several hundred words to list all that they’ve accomplished.
29. Don Bell
Don Bell, who with his wife, Faith, founded Don Bell Homes and Security Savings Bank, has an extensive philanthropy portfolio that extends to civic, educational, and charitable organizations and activities in several states. They donate a percentage of the bank’s profits to charitable efforts and causes through the Bell Family Foundation. Among the many organizations benefiting from the Bell’s generosity are Heart to Heart International, MidAmerica Nazarene University, the YMCA and the Olathe Chamber of Commerce. Most recently, Don and Faith Bell played a major role in the expansion of the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop Farm historical site and the Bell Cultural Events Center at MNU.
28. Stan Brockway
Brockway was the city engineer for Olathe for many years in the early part of the 20th century. He surveyed and engineered roadways, bridges and other projects that helped Olathe as it grew. In 1946, he was one half of the engineer firm Payne and Brockway, which still is in business today. Both Carman Payne and Brockway have streets named after them on the west side of the city.
27. Carman Payne
Payne was county engineer from 1921 to 1946. He surveyed and engineered much of the roadways and bridges in Johnson County. One could say he helped build the county from the ground up. He later formed one of the first civil engineering firms in the county with next person on the list.
26. John P. St. John
Most Olathe residents know the name John P. St. John because the former public school building downtown bears his name. St. John, however, was the first of three Olathe residents who became governor of Kansas. He served from 1878 to 1882. He was an influential community leader and affected the direction of Olathe.
25. Christian Martin Ott
CM Ott was Olathe’s first successful businessman. He came to Olathe in 1857 and operated a bakery and grocery store for 12 years. He built the first flour mill in 1869. The plant, after additions and upgrades, became the largest of its kind in eastern Kansas. But the mill wasn’t his only interest. He owned interests in a furniture factory and store in Ottawa and was involved in banking and real estate.
24. Charles “Buddy” Rogers
Rogers was Olathe’s most famous person. He was born Aug. 13, 1904, in Olathe. An accomplished musician, he formed the Buddy Rogers Orchestra, billed as the “newest thing in swing.” His orchestra played in various cities throughout the United States, including New York. His career took a turn when he played roles in two silent films for Paramount Pictures, “So’s Your Old Man” and “Fascinating Youth.” His first major role was in “Wings,” a World War I film, which won the Oscar for best picture in 1927. He starred in “My Best Girl” with starlet Mary Pickford, which began a relationship between the two. They married in 1936 in Olathe. Their marriage lasted 42 years, until Pickford’s death in 1979. Rogers was one of the few actors who transitioned into talking films. His good voice landed him roles in several musicals. His last major film, “The Parson and the Outlaw,” was made in 1957 and premiered at the Trail Theater in Olathe. He was a big supporter of the Olathe Community Theater Association. He died in 1999 in Palm Springs, Calif.
23. Luther “Dummy” Taylor
Taylor was a famous pitcher for the New York Giants for nine seasons in the early 1900s. He won 115 games with a career ERA of 2.75 and pitched a rare 21 shutouts. As one of the first deaf baseball players in the major league, he was instrumental in the development of sign language that currently is used in baseball. Baseball fans recognized the popular signs of “safe,” “strike,” “ball” and even “you are out of the ball game” ejection sign language. Taylor is the only Olathe resident to pitch in a World Series, and he is a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. Taylor later was a popular teacher and coach at the Kansas School for the Deaf.
22. Richard Spindle
As the third president of MidAmerica Nazarene University, Spindle took the higher education institution to new heights. He had a vision for the school that changed it from a college to a university and implemented a master plan that would build the Cook Center, new fields, dormitories and a cultural arts center. He also grew the university presence in the community. He didn’t want the university to isolate itself from community, but rather become part of Olathe, having MNU faculty, staff and students serve the greater community.
21. Frank Taylor
Ask to name a mover and shaker in Olathe’s success, and Frank Taylor, an Olathe attorney, would make the list. He has influenced numerous aspects of Olathe development in the past and continues to as president of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce. That influence ranges from economic growth and development to politics and community pride.
20. Betty Hougland
Some refer to Betty Hougland as the Welcome Wagon lady — for years, Houghland would welcome new families to Olathe. But her service went beyond her kindness to new residents. She volunteered for numerous committees and community endeavors. She also raised a true Olathe family, all of whom have served the community in some capacity. She is a true civic leader.
19. Dr. Gary Morsch
There are few people who can say they’ve affected the world, but that’s what Morsch has done through his humanitarian endeavors. He is the founder of Heart to Heart International, based in Olathe, that supplies humanitarian medical aid throughout the world. He is a leader when it comes to providing compassionate help to those in critical need. His work has inspired others in this field.
18. John Anderson Jr.
Anderson served as governor of Kansas from 1960 to 1964. He is an accomplished lawyer and statesman. His family has been part of Olathe since the late 1800s. His greatest accomplishment as governor was the district unification of the Kansas public school system. His changes still remain today.
17. JC Nichols
The entrepreneur and philanthropist JC Nichols is synonymous with the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. The real estate mogul, however, got his start on a farm eight miles northwest of Olathe. His family lived and worked in the Olathe area for many years. He graduated from Olathe High School and worked for his father before going to college and then setting out on a lifetime of achievement. Although much of his legacy is across the state line, Nichols got his work ethic and ability to dream and create in Olathe.
16. Fred Allenbrand
If term limits of sheriffs hadn’t been eliminated from Kansas law in 1964, Allenbrand probably wouldn’t have been as prominent a figure in Johnson County law enforcement. He was elected sheriff in 1967 and was re-elected to that office numerous times until his retirement in 1999. Allenbrand oversaw many modernizing trends in the sheriff department and in county law enforcement in general. He helped to remove much of the politics involved in the civil service system, which helped usher in a more professional standardization in the law enforcement community. He dealt with much of the pressure caused by the county’s explosive population growth and oversaw the first expansion of Johnson County jail, which is named after him and located in the New Century AirCenter.
15. Frank Devocelle
Under Devocelle’s leadership, Olathe Medical Center grew from a community hospital into a health system that provides numerous services from clinical care to the top cardiology unit in the state. One cannot mention Olathe Health Systems without mentioning Devocelle’s leadership as president and CEO.
14. JB and Lucinda Mahaffie
Before Olathe was a city, it was the last stop to the West. JB and Lucinda Mahaffie, some of the first residents to settle here, provided food and shelter to weary travelers at their farm, which was a stagecoach stop. Their hospitality became well known, and their legacy lives on at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm, Olathe’s largest historical site.
13. Larry Campbell
Campbell is the only person to serve as mayor and as a representative in the Kansas House. Campbell began his political career as a member of the Olathe City Council and then was elected mayor in 1994. He served in that position until 2000, and then later decided not run again for the Kansas House. People may credit Mayor Michael Copeland for leading Olathe into a era of commercial growth and national recognition, but much of that started with Campbell. Under his leadership, Campbell, along with the City Council, saw a need to balance the city’s sales tax base, implementing a policy of a 70 to 30 percent balance between residential and commercial taxes, and making a push to attract more retail growth to Olathe. He knew Olathe would not survive without this change in the tax base, and it was during his time as mayor that 119th Street and Strangline Road began to develop into the commercial complex it is today.
12. Melvin Winters
Ron Wimmer may be considered one of the most dynamic and influential superintendents in Olathe public schools’ history, but Melvin Winters served the longest term as superintendent, from 1968 to 1991. He dealt with some of Olathe’s most dynamic growth, building a new high school, Olathe South, and planned for the city’s third, Olathe East. During his tenure, the school district grew in enrollment from 4,000 to 15,000 students. He dedicated a majority of his life to improving the Olathe public education system.
11. William J. Marra
Marra was born in Kansas City, Kan., the son of Italian immigrants. He lost his hearing at age 5 as a result of spinal meningitis. The majority of his life’s work was in Olathe. He supervised and taught at the Kansas School for the Deaf starting in the 1930s until his retirement in 1976. Much of what people know about the history of Olathe’s deaf community and KSD, and even the deaf history in other parts of Kansas, is because of Marra, who collected and saved historical records, photos and other items, which now are on display at the William Marra Museum in the Deaf Cultural Center.
10.Moore’s generosity preserves Olathe
The long-awaited Legacy Sculpture, a 150th birthday present for Olathe, is expected to be installed this spring. It is a life-sized monument, nearly 30 feet long, composed of people, horses and a stagecoach.
Each part will always be symbolic of the history that drove Olathe to what it is today.
As you peer into the stagecoach, you will see Maron Moore sculpted as one of the passengers. Intentionally placed by sculptor Kwan Wu, she will be seated, bronzed, and forever remembered as a part of the of the first 150 years of Olathe.
Mike Haskin, one of the co-chairs of Olathe’s sesquicentennial steering committee said that is just as it should be.
“Every time we look at those figures we will be able to appreciate her,” Haskin said.
It was Moore who made sure the entire sculpture would be the best possible birthday present for Olathe.
As the price tag for Olathe’s 150th anniversary sculpture soared well past $150,000, there was talk of having a half-sized sculpture made. But Moore spoke up. She said it would be “a shame,” to not have a full-sized sculpture. Then she pledged her own contribution. She offered a $200,000 matching donation if the committee would make sure the rest of the money was raised. The money, $400,000 in all, was raised for the full-sized sculpture.
Steve Baysinger, director of the Olathe Parks and Recreation Department, said when Moore speaks, people listen. People move forward.
“She is a quiet woman, but has made a huge impact,” Baysinger said. “She has a tremendous amount of credibility with the people she knows and touches... When she talks everyone can sit up and say it was a good point.”
For years Moore has said it would be a shame to not recognize Olathe’s “high points.” Moore may be most recognized for her financial support, but Tim Talbott, site manager for Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm, said she should be remembered for having given an immeasurable amount of time for Olathe’s benefit.
“It is her time and effort along with her financial support,” Talbott said.
Moore was central to Mahaffie’s acquisition of stagecoaches. When Mahaffie dedicated its first new stagecoach, they gave her the first ride.
“She always has good ideas on what the people of Olathe might like to have happen, what people are going to enjoy,” Talbott said. “Certainly we would not have the singificant elements like the stagecoach if it hadn’t been for her initiative.”
When she retired after more than 40 years as a teacher, she began her involvement as a tourguide at Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm. It’s part of her history.
She was born in Olathe. Her father attended school with a member of the Mahaffie family. Her work began as a way to make a personal connection to the city.
Ever since, she remained involved with the site and serves on the foundation board.
“She is probably the best attendee on the Mahaffie Foundation, and she is always there ahead of time,” Baysinger said.
The additions she suggests, the actions she has taken, and the request for the action of others has helped people build a connection to Olathe and its history.
“She has deflected a lot of the praise she has gotten. Humble is a good way to describe her,” Baysinger said. “The giving of her time and her passion for Olathe’s history really stands out to me. She has a tremendous respect for Olathe’s history.”
She has been a lead contributor for the development of Mahaffie’s new visitor center and heritage facility, which is yet another location, another opportunity to introduce more people to Olathe and its past.
“I’m sure we would have had a way of showing our living history but (without Moore) it wouldn’t be portrayed as well,” Baysinger said. “I’ve never heard her say it, but I think she would indicate that it is important to know your history in order to move to your future.”
9.Copeland leads Olathe into new era of governance
Mayor Mike Copeland has said a few times that during his tenure Olathe’s population has increased by about 25,000 residents – and it continues to grow, 16,000 jobs have been created and $1.6 billion in economic investment has been added to the community.
That’s just the beginning of a list of the city’s accomplishments under his leadership as Olathe’s mayor.
The key to Copeland has been his desire to make the community a better place not only for his children, but the children of all of Olathe’s residents, City Manager Michael Wilkes said.
“I think that’s what’s driven him to be successful,” he said.
But with Copeland, it started well before he was elected his first term as mayor in 2001. It began when he was a member of the city council, starting in 1993.
Then it wasn’t clear to his fellow councilmembers that he would one day be the Olathe’s mayor, but spotting his leadership ability wasn’t difficult.
“I could see it in the potential ability for him to do it, but at the time, I don’t know if he had the interest or not,” Steve Eddy, who served on the council with Copeland from 1995 to 1997, said of him becoming mayor.
There was never a discussion of future advancement, Eddy said. He said for Copeland, it was just how much he enjoyed serving the people of Olathe.
As a councilmember, Copeland was a quiet, driving force, Eddy said. Copeland worked well in the background, developing a quiet consensus, he said.
“Whenever you’re dealing with people in the public view, or public office, there’s always an urge to make yourself stand out or make your name more visible for the voters than others,” Eddy said. “Mike, however, was more concerned with building a consensus and getting the job done than publicizing himself.
“Mike’s a little old fashioned. He believes in leading by example.”
And most would say he’s done that.
Wilkes said he’s been aggressive, championing large projects – including ones that improve Olathe residents’ quality of life and promote economic development – that will forever change the city’s future.
Some of those projects include the Kansas State University Campus and Kansas Bioscience Authority Research park, the 127th Street Overpass, the railroad bridge elevation project, the Interstate 35 and Lone Elm Road Interchange, attracting Bass Pro Shops, Corporate Ridge Business Park and Olathe Pointe Shopping Center among others.
“It took Mike’s leadership to step out on some of these really difficult big deals,” Wilkes said. “I think that really was changing the (city’s) direction.”
Previous councils had not made those kind of iterations, Wilkes said.
Frank Taylor, president of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce said Olathe’s been fortunate to have a city council that has a good understanding of economic development – managing and balancing a tax base between residential and commercial growth – to limit residential property taxes. Copeland has provided leadership in that area, he said.
And Taylor said, no one has been a bigger cheerleader for the city when it comes to attracting economic development.
“An important part of what Mike does is just his enthusiasm for Olathe and what Olathe has to offer,” he said. “He’s certainly been instrumental in economic development from that perspective. It makes people feel like they belong here and need to be a part of a growing and vibrant community.”
Councilmember Marge Vogt said Copeland is a true leader, not just because he’s the mayor, but because of what he does in that position.
“He uses his ability to influence by motivating and enabling others to contribute to the success of our community,” she said. “I would also call him visionary in that he is able to reflect the values of our community with the intent of providing a better future for our community. Those are attributes that are so important.”
Tim Danneberg, a city spokesman said Copeland has increased the stability of Olathe’s government. Part of that was a result of the city’s assessed governance, which includes the DirectionFinder survey, to identify residents’ biggest concerns to strategically plan for the future and gauge their overall satisfaction with the city and its services.
Olathe has outperformed the Kansas City metropolitan area in overall citizen satisfaction, Danneberg said, since the surveys began in 2000.
Another stabilizing move was changing the council’s term lengths from two to four years. Danneberg said that helps the council plan for the future by making it easier to develop projects without having to worry about the council turning over.
Danneberg said Copeland has overseen a “growing up” period for the city.
“Olathe has transformed really from the stigma of a small, isolated bedroom community to a true regional leader,” he said.
Taylor described Copeland’s tenure as a transitional period.
“He’s been the mayor at a time that Olathe has emerged from being kind of a country town to a community that provides leadership in the metropolitan area,” he said. “During his tenure, certainly Kansas City has come to understand Olathe is a strong part of the community and an important part of the community.”
Wilkes said it might take 30 or 40 years, but Copeland’s legacy is already being cemented.
“When history looks back on this decade,” he said, “it will look favorably on Mike’s leadership.”
8. Hyer makes Olathe home of the cowboy boot
During Olathe’s first 150 years, many people and events have helped put the city in the national and international spotlight, but an early business leader was the first to bring widespread recognition to Olathe. Charles Henry (C.H.) Hyer, who founded the Hyer Boot Company, made the first pair of cowboy boots in 1880.
Hyer learned the craft from his father William, a German immigrant. Hyer came to the area about 1870 from Kankakee, Ill., to first work on the Santa Fe Railroad. About 1875, he came to Olathe and began teaching shoemaking and leatherwork to students at the Kansas School for the Deaf.
About that time, he opened a small shoe shop on Park Street with his brother Edward. Shortly after, according to the Kansas State Historical Society, he was asked by a cowboy, passing through Olathe on his way west, to make a pair of boots.
Hyer did and the cowboy boot was born. Local historian Max Evans, who has played Hyer in local reenactments, said the boot was revolutionary. It differed from the traditional military boot, which was knee high, had a straight toe, wasn’t comfortable or very durable, he said.
Evans said Hyers boots were shorter, about calf high, the toe was pointed to allow easier access in and out of stirrups.
“They just became really incredibly popular,” Evans said. “It really put Olathe on the map.”
According the the book, “Trails, Rails and Tales” by George R. Bauer, Hyer was one of the first to use mail order catalogs that included instructions for sizing one’s own feet and illustrations of designs so customers could design their own boots.
Evans said by the late 1880s, when Hyer’s business really took off, orders coming in freight from Kansas City were so overwhelming, it prompted Olathe’s first post office.
“It would have been like the dot com of the 1800s,” he said. “That’s the kind of business it truly was. He invented a new product and everybody had to have it.”
Many famous people including, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickock, John Dillinger, Gene Autry, Will Rogers, “Buddy” Rogers and presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower wore Hyer boots, according to Bauer.
In 1913, Hyer bought a hotel on Chestnut Street and converted it to a factory. Acording to Bauer, by 1919, the company was selling 15,000 boots a year and in one year sold 50,000 pairs. It supplied boots for the military until 1938, he wrote.
“It just became kind of the standard in the industry,” Evans said. “If you were going to buy a cowboy boot, and you thought of the best boot you could buy, it was a Hyer boot.”
But more than just the cowboy boot, Nan Bohl, Hyer’s granddaughter, said Hyer’s contribution to the community was enormous.
Bohl said the Hyer Boot Company was the first manufacturing business in Olathe and perhaps Johnson County. She said she has no doubt that his business helped open the door for other manufacturers.
According to the KSHS, by the 1960s, the company had 70 employees. Bohl said many of them were deaf.
“He hired deaf people, and the boot factory hired deaf people until we sold in 1969,” she said. “At least one-fourth of the workers were deaf.”
Hyer lobbied for KSD with the Kansas Legislature, compelled the Olathe School District to use proper accounting practices as a member of the school board and sat on the City Council when it established Olathe’s first brick streets, concrete sidewalks and sanitary sewers, Bohl said.
She said there was public opposition to shaping the community into a more modern town then, but Hyer stood up to it.
“He took special pride that he fought the battle for civic progress,” she said. Hyer passed away in 1921. His sons William, Charles and Albert kept the business going in Olathe until 1969.
The city’s Sesquicentennial Committee this year commissioned the “Welcome Home! Cowboy Boots” exhibition — in which local artists painted 12 6-foot tall fiberglass boots that are still on display throughout the city — to celebrate Hyer’s legacy and the Olathe roots of the first cowboy boot.
“He had the leadership not only of building a world-renowned manufacturing business, but he also helped with the development of Olathe,” Bohl said.
7. Cunningham’s vision brings college to Olathe
Sometime in the mid 1960s, Paul Cunningham took his friend Charles “Chuck” Millhuff to the top of a cornfield planted on a hill. They had been trusted friends since nursery-school age, but this was a little odd.
“I remember he came and got me and drove me out there to see this field. It was like driving out into the wilderness,” Millhuff said.
All Millhuff could see was Olathe-area farmland, complete with cattle and a silo. Then Cunningham told him he thought it would be the perfect site for a new college.
“I thought that idea was the craziest idea I’d ever heard,” Millhuff said. “How in this wide world would he think anyone would come here?”
Dan Vanderpool, executive pastor at College Church of the Nazarene, said it was Cunningham’s vision and leadership that lead to that cornfield becoming the site of MidAmerica Nazarene College.
“He has the ability to know what to do...He would look where nobody else has and go in that direction,” Vanderpool said.
Cunningham came to Olathe in the mid-1960s. He was a young seminary graduate called to be the pastor of a congregation on the west side of town. The congregation had about 48 members, and Cunningham saw he could make it grow. Even if it meant he had to knock on doors.
“He knocked on doors and told people who he was,” Vanderpool said. “He said he didn’t know if they attended church but if they ever needed a church or a pastor to ‘Call on me.’” They did.
By the time he left what is now called College Church of the Nazarene, the congregation grew from less than 50 members to “mega church” status.
Even as one pastor of a large church, he made an effort to get to know as many people as possible. Vanderpool said it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone say, “You don’t know us, but we believe we know you. We believe you could help us.”
Within Olathe, Cunningham attended Rotary meetings. Served as a chaplain for the Olathe Police Department. He rooted for students in Olathe football games. In the early 1990s, he was named Citizen of the Year by the Olathe Chamber of Commerce.
“He always felt if he was in a town, he should be part of the town,” Millhuff said. “He wasn’t just a religious leader, he was a part of Olathe... Coming to this little town was a miracle that changed him.”
Millhuff said Cunningham had a knack for using his own vision to change others. At a time when the church struggled to meet the mortgage, he approached banker R. R. Osborne directly. He requested money, not for himself, not for the church, but to give to people in greater need. He spurred a movement of giving. Eventually, $1,000 was given to world missions by the church, and the church paid off its mortgage.
Cunningham later met with Osborne about his vision for a college in Olathe. They had formed a friendship of trust. So much so, that Osborne not only helped him move business leaders to see the possibility of a college, Osborne donated land. Together they broke ground for MidAmerica Nazarene College, the former site of a cornfield.
The university currently provides education to more than a 1,500 students. College Church of the Nazarene now has more than 3,000 members. And now Cunningham serves as a general superintendent for the International Church of the Nazarene.
“Here is this man that everyone built upon his foundation,” Vanderpool said. “It was a strong foundation.”
6.Wimmer’s work grows Olathe school district,
Ron Wimmer led the Olathe school district from 15,357 students to more than 24,000.
And educators who worked with Wimmer say that the district grew in more ways than one during Wimmer’s 40 years of service.
“Nobody worked harder and put in more effort in terms of his role as superintendent,” said Pat All, the district’s current superintendent. “His work effort is very well known.”
Wimmer joined the district in 1965 as a Spanish teacher at Santa Fe Trail Junior High School. He went on to serve as assistant principal and then principal for Santa Fe Trail.
In 1978, Wimmer became director of personnel for the district. He became assistant superintendent in 1980 and then served as superintendent from 1991 to 2005.
During Wimmer’s time as superintendent, the district built 16 new schools and student achievement scores reached all-time highs.
“As superintendent of schools, Ron had a real strong focus on quality education and student achievement,” said Frank Taylor, Olathe Chamber of Commerce president.
Wimmer provided leadership when the district piloted its 21st Century programs. In 2002, the district started programs in aerospace and engineering, biotechnology and life sciences, e-communication, geosciences and distinguished scholars. The career-centered programs provide hands-on experience for students.
Olathe now has 17 such programs. Many of the programs involve business and community partners.
“In (Wimmer’s) capacity as superintendent of schools, he was always a strong partner with the business community and the chamber of commerce,” Taylor said.
Wimmer plans to put his experience and partnerships to use as a candidate state Senate, representing Johnson County’s 9th District. Currently, the seat is held by Olathe Republican Julia Lynn.
Wimmer switched parties and will run as a Democrat. Johnson County Democratic Party Chair Bill Roy said the Kansas Senate bid will give Wimmer a chance to expand his influence.
“The primary issue before the state Legislature is education,” Roy said. “When Ron is elected, no one in the state Legislature will have a greater understanding of what’s happening than Ron Wimmer.”
And Wimmer’s understanding extends beyond the realm of public education.
“He understands how the community works and what kinds of things we need to do to balance the tax base, provide community services and provide the high quality of life we have here in Olathe,” Taylor said. In 2005, Wimmer received the R.R. Osborne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Olathe Chamber of Commerce.
Wimmer is the only person besides R.R. Osborne to receive this award. Taylor said Ron’s ability to collaborate warranted the award.
“Ron’s as good as anybody I know at getting people to work together and reach mutually beneficial solutions to challenges,” Taylor said.
Wimmer’s other accolades include: National Administrator of the Year from the American Library Association, 1997 Olathe Citizen of the Year, 1997 Kansas Superintendent of the Year, Olathe Chamber of Commerce Joe Barlett Lifetime Achievement Award, Olathe Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and the 1998 Kansas Public Relations Association Communicator of the Year award.
5.Emery’s state deaf school continues to enrich city
Philip Emery didn’t need to live in Olathe to leave his mark on the city.
Emery founded the Kansas School of the Deaf in Baldwin City in 1861. The school moved to Olathe five years later.
“They really broke new ground here in Kansas and recognized the right of deaf children to be educated like everybody else, and everything we’ve done since that has been built on that,” KSD Superintendent Robert Maile said.
Emery became deaf when he was 3 years old because of scarlet fever.
Emery was known for his self-sufficiency. He did not receive formal education until he was 21 years old when he enrolled in the Indiana School for the Deaf.
Emery graduated from ISD and went on to teach at his alma mater.
Emery met his wife there, and the two eventually moved to a farm just outside of Lawrence.
Emery’s new neighbor, Jonathan Ralstin Kennedy, heard about Emery’s passion for deaf education. Kennedy wanted his three deaf children, Matilda, Emma and Orange Kennedy, to have a formal education.
He encouraged Emery to establish a deaf school in Kansas.
“Since Kansas was really on the frontier at that time, it was really a bold step to take,” Maile said.
KSD opened in 1861 with one student who paid her tuition with products from her father’s farm.
Today, KSD has 135 students and receives financial assistance from the state.
Debbie Buchholz moved her family to Olathe 10 years ago so her children could attend KSD.
Buchholz said the school’s commitment to bilingual education that incorporates American Sign Language and English impressed her.
Emery advocated for ASL and opposed a push to force deaf people to speak. Buchholz said during her first visit she noticed KSD still has the same philosophy of its founder.
“All the teachers were very fluent in sign language,” Buchholz said. “Even people who were hearing were using sign language.”
KSD has students who live in Olathe and who stay in the school’s dorms. The school has educated about 4,000 deaf students since it came to Olathe.
Some of those students move on to other cities to attend college or start careers. But some have chosen to make a home in Olathe.
“Olathe is enriched by the contribution of the school and its long list of alumni that live here in Olathe, making Olathe a better place for all of us,” Mayor Michael Copeland said.
Olathe has a club of the deaf and deaf church congregations.
“We know there is a much higher population of deaf here than there is in the general population,” Maile said. “The ones who move here with their children generally end up being employed in the area and turn into longtime residents.”
“The deaf school is going to be a good citizen in Olathe for years to come.”
4. Garmin’s Burrell, Kao put city on world map
Garmin’s international presence has helped make the city of Olathe known worldwide.
“It put Olathe on the GPS worldwide,” Mayor Michael Copeland said. “When you turn on your brand new Garmin device, it starts the first way-point right in Olathe, Kan.”
Gary Burrell and Min Kao founded what is now the world’s leading global positioning system navigation company and moved its operational headquarters to Olathe in 1996.
The company, which designs, manufactures and markets its GPS navigation and communications equipment for automobile/mobile, outdoor/fitness, marine and aviation markets, moved to Olathe because that’s where it all started, said Garmin spokesman Jake Jacobson.
The two worked for King Radio and Allied Signal in Olathe. It was there Kao, an electrical engineer who came to the U.S. from Taiwan in 1976, led the development of the first GPS navigator certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
In 1989 with a group of engineers, Burrell, a Wichita State University electrical engineering graduate who by that time was an established leader in integrated avionics, and Kao started Garmin in Lenexa.
Their first product, a marine GPS device, was released in 1991. The company hasn’t looked back since, with increasing revenues each year. In 2006, Garmin reported sales of $1.77 billion. Its 2007 third quarter sales, released in late October, already have eclipsed last year’s total at $1.98 billion. The company projects it will hit $2.98 billion in sales by the end of the year.
The second largest private employer in Olathe, Garmin’s presence in the community is enormous. Copeland said Burrell and Kao’s vision made that possible.
“The company has had the great fortune of being led by two men of wonderful integrity, great focus and extraordinary philanthropy,” he said. “Our community has benefitted greatly because of their leadership of Garmin, and it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.”
Garmin’s campus, 1200 E. 151st St., encompasses 750,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space on 42 acres. It has expanded twice — a $12 million expansion in 2000 and a $65 million expansion in 2004.
The company currently is expanding its existing warehouse in Olathe from about 117,000 square feet to more than 300,000 square feet.
Next week, Garmin will move its 200-employee product support team to occupy 49,000 square feet at the Corporate Ridge Office Park near Kansas Highway 10 and Ridgeview Road.
The company also owns 46 acres next to its campus, which it will use for future expansions.
Tim McKee, Olathe Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development, said he uses Garmin as a selling point when attracting businesses to locate in the city.
“It validates Olathe as a location where a corporate headquarters can thrive,” he said. “You can’t pay for the advertising they do having their name and headquarters in Olathe, Kan., being flashed all over the world.”
Garmin now employs 2,150 employees in Olathe and more than 8,100 worldwide. Copeland said its jobs, which draw people from all over the world, are the types of employees the city would like to compete for.
“In the information age, knowledge-based jobs will set Olathe apart,” he said. “That can be our niche.” McKee said the company’s presence in Olathe has benefitted the rest of the city’s business community.
From Garmin utilizing local accounting and consulting services to it garnering business for the city’s restaurants and hotels, McKee said he couldn’t even estimate how much spinoff business the company creates.
Tim Danneberg, a city spokesman, called Garmin “the crown jewel” of Olathe businesses.
“They’re a global leader that is also a very solid contributing member of the Olathe community,” he said. The company is an active member of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce and regularly contributes to charity.
From sponsoring youth soccer and local events to donating to churches, McKee said Garmin’s name seems to be stamped on everything in the community.
“It’s just been a phenomenal company,” Copeland said. “We couldn’t be more fortunate they put their headquarters here.”
3. Lane’s efforts establish hospital in city
Baked goods and crafts often are sold in Olathe Medical Center lobbies, but most people don’t know that fundraisers such as these founded the hospital.
In 1949, registered nurse Doris Lane had a vision for a community hospital to serve Olathe residents. Voters turned down a drive to establish a hospital district that would have enabled tax dollars to fund the establishment.
But this setback did not discourage Lane.
Lane banded with Margaret Deshler and other Olathe nurses to create the Graduate Nurses Group. The group began to raise money through food and rummage sales.
“It was really a community effort,” Doris Lane’s son Jim Lane said. “They knew if they got the hospital there, then they could get some doctors there.”
Doris Lane and the group of nurses built a wooden thermometer to track their progress. The group eventually raised about $45,000.
Ground broke for the hospital in 1952 at Cooper and Santa Fe streets. Olathe Community Hospital opened as a 30-bed facility in 1953.
“It was all through donations. That is one of the unique things about it,” said Harley Haskin, a board member for the hospital’s first foundation.
Haskin gives Doris Lane credit for establishing the medical facility Olathe residents depend on today.
“She really gave a spark plug to the whole hospital drive,” he said.
In 1987, Olathe Community Hospital changed its name to Olathe Medical Center and relocated to its current 270-acre campus on 151st Street.
The medical center today serves 230,000 patients a year in the hospital and almost 400,000 patients in its clinics. The medical center has 2,450 employees.
“We are always amused that what we have now was started with bake sales and garage sales,” said Amy Waters, Olathe Medical Center Ambassador.
As the hospital expanded, so did Doris Lane’s service.
Lane transitioned from a nurse to a volunteer. The 98-year-old spent more than 50 years volunteering as an Olathe Medical Center Ambassador.
Olathe Medical Center Ambassadors honored Doris Lane last year with a plaque they placed in the hospital.
“(Doris) was very active in the auxiliary and would do whatever it took to provide good services to patients,” said Frank Devocelle, Olathe Medical Center chief executive officer. “She was always willing to corporate and willing to help others.”
In the 1970s, Doris Lane volunteered at American Indian reservations in South Dakota through AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America program.
Doris Lane joined the program shortly after her husband died.
“She actually got some clinics going in these little towns,” Jim Lane said.
Doris Lane now lives at Olathe Good Samaritan Center.
And although most remember her as the nurse who established Olathe Medical Center, Jim Lane said there are many other roles at which Doris Lane excelled.
Doris Lane cooked, gardened and volunteered in her son’s classrooms.
“This woman really did an awful lot of stuff,” Jim Lane said. “She did all this stuff, but she always had plenty of time to be mom.”
2.Founder Barton still a mystery
He’s a man who holds the title of “founder of Olathe.” Yet, we don’t know what he looked like. Nobody is certain of what happened to him throughout most of his life. Little more is known about John T. Barton outside of the single significant act of founding Olathe.
The most commonly told story about Barton is that he came to Johnson County in the 1850s. He worked with Shawnee Indians in the area as a doctor. Following their custom, Barton staked a claim in the center of Johnson County by placing two poles on the ground.
He organized the Olathe Town Company along with five others. In 1858, Olathe was incorporated by the territorial legislature in Lecompton.
And so the story goes, Barton was struck by the natural beauty of the territory he claimed. He particularly was taken with the surrounding prairie flowers, specifically the verbenas. Barton supposedly asked a member of the Shawnee tribe its word for “beautiful.” The reply: “O-lay-thee.” Through Barton’s broken pronunciation, the name Olathe was given.
Mayor Michael Copeland said Barton’s influence on Olathe should not be taken lightly.
“Because of him, Olathe was properly named as far as I am concerned,” Copeland said. “He was correct because of its geography and nature as well as its beauty.”
But little else is certain about Barton.
Maureen Donegan works as a social studies coordinator for the Olathe school district. Through her own private research, she has discovered some documentation about Barton. But, in her own struggle to find information about Barton, she has determined Barton is a historical figure who has become, at the very least, “elusive.”
Donegan found that Barton is in federal census records indicating he was a citizen of Albermarle, Va., in 1850. He is listed in the Kansas Census in 1860.
But, she said, much of her research has been an attempt to debunk stories that may be only “local lore.”
The Olathe centennial commemorative book “Arrows to Atoms” includes a paragraph about Barton’s engagement to the daughter of a local judge. But, instead of marrying her, he left her as well as Olathe forever. Supposedly, in return he gave the woman all of his Johnson County real estate. He had remained in Olathe until 1860.
But, not much is known about what he did with his life in the 1870s or 1880s. Some say he had a change of heart regarding slavery.
Donegan also found a newspaper article stating Barton had become successful in real estate in Kansas City, Mo. Another story is that in his later years he suffered from mental illness. Donegan said this is likely. A record she found stated he died in 1895 in Carroll County, Mo. At that time, a mental institution was established in that area.
In 1979, an award was established in John T. Barton’s name. City Council record from September 1979 cites acceptance of the policy that would be followed to select recipients. The John T. Barton Award is given to recipients who have served as officials of the city or have made a significant contribution to the community.
Some recipients of the Barton award have included Richard Buzbee, Elaine Tatham, Myrna Stringer, Earl Chandler and RR Osborne.
“The city thinks highly of (Barton) still,” Copeland said. “The highest recognition for a citizen is named after Mr. Barton.”
1. Osborne’s contributions continue today
As early as 1967 he was known as “Mr. Olathe.”
Robert R. Osborne had millions of dollars by that point in his life. And even then, he wore inexpensive polyester clothes. For most of his life, he drove an old Oldsmobile. He lived in a simple home with his wife, Clarice.
He could have been remembered for being one of the wealthiest in Olathe. After all, it was in Olathe that he “made it.” Yet, he retained the ability to look any child in the eye and tell him with honesty that to own “money isn’t everything.”
Osborne taught that lesson by example. Until his death in 2001, he gave his abundance back to others. Osborne never saw his wealth as a result of luck; he insisted he was blessed.
Mayor Michael Copeland said few could name every contribution made to Olathe by Osborne because he did so much.
“When he first started to move forward, (his contributions were) just pieces of a puzzle,” Copeland said. “Now you can see the beautiful mosaic he had in mind.”
Osborne moved to Olathe from De Soto in the 1920s. For 10 years he was the president of Patrons Bank.
He also was involved with several other banks. He owned land, financial power and a strong sense of business.
Margaret Lamberson began work with Osborne at Patron’s Bank. She remained his associate for 47 years.
She can recall some of his long history of significant contributions: Olathe Medical Center, MidAmerica Nazarene University, the Federal Aviation Administration flight control center, the Olathe school district.
“It was just in his last few years he let people know what he did,” Lamberson said. “Everything was anonymous until some people convinced him to let some of that be known so others can follow suit.”
Lamberson said when Osborne’s name was revealed, she took even more calls from people asking him for a contribution.
“I never knew how he decided where he would give his money,” Lamberson said.
But, Lamberson said, Osborne had a soft spot for older people and children. If Osborne didn’t give money, often he would give his time, his listening ear, his advice.
In the 1960s, Osborne gave young minister Paul Cunningham assistance when few others in town would. Osborne donated land for MidAmerica Nazarene College, an idea Cunningham hoped to make a reality for Olathe.
“He was a great friend who will always tell you the truth,” Cunningham said. “He was a man who if you asked him for advice, always said what he thought. But he was gracious and kind in the process.” Cunningham said Osborne would contribute to a cause when he saw its value.
“He felt education was essential to the improvement of a progressing area,” Cunningham said. “He gave to several churches. He felt that churches helped raise the moral standard of the community, to build the kind of community he envisioned that Olathe would become.”
Frank Devocelle, president and CEO of Olathe Health System, said Osborne’s touch is seen throughout Olathe. His contributions to Olathe Medical Center and the Olathe Health System were seen at every stage of their development.
“He wanted to support health care in the community,” Devocelle said. “He wanted what was best for Olathe as was (the same with) most of his charitable giving here in Olathe.”
Even today, Devocelle said there are contributions to the medical center that remain unannounced, in respect of Osborne’s wishes, but are appreciated every day.
“He didn’t want any visibility and credit for anything,” Devocelle said. “The things he made happen were instrumental in getting Olathe on the map. I would hate to guess what Olathe would be without him. The roots are so deep that all growth is a springboard from the basics he put in place years ago.”
Cunningham said when Osborne was asked what he did, even after his years of business, he often would say he was a farmer.
“He owned land and was never happier than when he was on a tractor,” Cunningham said. “... He valued the importance of hard work, saving money, establishing financial priority. ... Money was important, too, but only as a means to an end. It was there so he could do things he felt were important.”
Devocelle said above all Osborne should be remembered as a philanthropist.
“He had a tremendous humility, soft spoken, firm in his convictions. He was an extremely astute business person. More than anything he was self-made,” Devocelle said. “He went from nothing to the top. But philanthropist is what describes him as well as anything at the end of the day.”