Raymond L. Cockrum, Class of 1952, died July 17. He was 76. Cockrum was a retired pipe fitter for Union #441. He was a Masonic member.
Betty Jo (Pickens) Johnston, Class of 1945, died July 17. She was 81.
Virgil O’Neil, Class of 1968, died July 3.
He was 60. He worked in the oilfield as a farmhand and machinery operator
and for Vernon Township, operating the roadgrader.
Joseph Henry Schwartz, Class of 1938, died July 22. He was 89. He served honorably in the United States Navy during World War II. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus and retired as a contract supervisor with Santa Fe Railroad.
Margaret May Wheeler, retired Department of Humanities chairperson and English instructor at Cowley College, died Aug. 6. She was 88. She graduated top 10 in the class from North High School in 1938. She graduated from Wichita University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1942 and began her teaching career at Andover High School from 1943 to 1945 when she married Lieut. Nelson J. Wheeler, also of Wichita, who was serving in the Army Air Force and stationed in Orlando, Fl. Following the war, the couple returned to Wichita and Mrs. Wheeler dedicated herself for the next twenty years to raising their three daughters and to her volunteer work with the Girl Scouts (Ten Year Service Award), the PTA (Honorary Life Member) and the Presbyterian Church (Deacon). Mrs. Wheeler earned a Master of Education degree from Wichita State University in 1969. For the next 18 years she had a very distinguished career teaching literature and composition, her true avocation. She was honored many times by her peers and loved by her students of all ages. In 1972, Mrs. Wheeler was named an “Outstanding Educator of America,” in 1975 she was listed in “Who’s Who of Kansas” and in both 1977 and 1983 she was nominated as the Kansas Master Teacher. In 1983 she received the Kansas Association of Community Colleges Award of Merit. She was named the Department of Humanities “Teacher of the Year” and also the college’s Master Teacher. She was a member and past president of Delta Kappa Gamma, was the founder and sponsor of the Ark City Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Fraternity and was inducted into its national sponsors’ hall of fame. She published the Cowley College literary magazine and volunteered her time to teach creative writing to senior citizens writing their memoirs. She held various advisory positions including to USD 470, to the Editorial Board of The Arkansas City Traveler and to the North Central Steering Committee.
Joe Bert Avery, 79, of Arkansas City, died September
Avery was a lifelong resident of Arkansas City, having been born in Cushing, Oklahoma on October 26, 1928, and brought to Ark City by his parents, Bert E. and Viola (Huffine) Avery when he was a young child. He graduated from the local high school in 1946 and from Ark City Junior College (now Cowley College) in 1948. Avery completed a third year at ACJC, taking every business course that was offered at that time. Avery married Donna J. Lawson on September 4, 1949, and the couple made their home in Arkansas City for the 59 years of their marriage.
Avery’s career spanned 45 years in local industry. He worked for 19 years at the New Era Mill where he was Production manager and Grain Buyer. In 1968 he went to Rodeo Meats as Personnel Manager, and following the closing of the packing company in 1982, he served as Administrative Manager of Total Petroleum, retiring from that position in October of 1993.
Avery was active through the years in Central Christian Church where he served as Chairman of the Board and taught Sunday School classes, In 1991 he became a member of First United Methodist Church and continued his service to the Lord on various committees and projects. He was a founding member of the Arkansas City Human Relations Council, serving as Chairman twice, and completing 29 years with that group. He was chairman of the United Way of Arkansas City at one time, and held Board positions on the Cowley College Endowment and Habitat for Humanity Boards.
He served as Chief Cook and gracious host in his home for dinners and receptions generated through his wife’s employment at the Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce and Strother Field. His greatest contribution was creating and raising a loving family.
He loved music and was an excellent trumpet player. He played in the Arkansas City Municipal Band over a period of 35 years, actually serving as “band manager” for at least 15 of those years. He also played in the Ark City Junior College Pep Band, continuing his role in that group for years after he graduated from the college. From the time he was in high school, and continuing for at least 20 years, every Memorial Day found him being the trumpet echo for military services at all area cemeteries.