A Wichita Benchmark

Small park area on the southwest corner of the old public library, and next to the circle drive for the Convention Center.

Now that I work in downtown Wichita, and it’s starting to cool down, I have been walking on my lunch breaks.  I stumbled on several random benches near Cancun and English, down by Century II.

They don’t really seem to take a form.  I checked my resources but could not find any information about them.  Apparently, they just magically appeared.

Part of the mystery was solved by Bernadette Bradshaw from the Division of Arts & Cultural Services with the city.

Turns out the benches, along with several other sculptures, were donated by Helen Galloway. 

So, who is Helen Galloway?  Once I read more about her, I was embarrassed to not know her name.  She has been a staunch supporter of Wichita and the arts for years.

According to her store’s bio, she is the daughter of a cattle farmer who emigrated to America in the early 1900s with his wife and 9 children.

Helen attended Colorado Womens’ College and returned to Wichita. In 1973, she opened The First Place and within four months she showed her first profit.

At 90, she still works six days a week at The First Place.  I took a chance and showed up at her office.

I called her Mrs. Galloway, she quickly corrected me, saying “It’s Helen.”

We spoke for just a moment, before she invited me to sit down.  I asked her if she felt 90 and she said, “I can’t say that because I drive to work in my car, and I work six days a week.”

I told her I was trying to find some information on the benches by Century II. 

They were donated in honor of her brother, Professor Fran Jabara. Jabara joined the Wichita University faculty in 1949, he eventaully served as Dean of the College of Business Administration. In 1977, Jabara founded the Center for Entrepreneurship at WSU. In 1996, WSU’s Jabara Hall was dedicated in his honor. He received the Faculty Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 and the President’s Medal in 2002.

About the benches, Helen said, “Aren’t they fantastic, I got them from a firm in California.  I bought all the benches they had; they were just beautiful.”

She said she was not sure of the artist but thought their placement “was just such a pretty area in front of Century II, and I just wanted it to be a comfortable place for people in Wichita.  Where they could go and eat lunch or to sit and visit.“

The Wichita fan added, “Its just been a wonderful life and I love this town. I love everything about it.”

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