A long-time native of Ark City passed away at the age of 89 Tuesday, July 30. Wilbur Hugh Killblane was born the oldest of two sons to Hugh W. and Hattie Killblane in Ark City on November 30, 1929. His mother was born in 1905 to a railroad family that had migrated to Ark City before the end of the 19th century and moved away for a few years only to return with her husband in 1926. Wilbur graduated high school from nearby Geuda Springs in 1947. That year he enlisted in the recently activated Kansas National Guard and served in Ark City’s K Company, 137th Infantry. He completed two years of Cowley County Junior College and then went to work with Boeing Aircraft Production Company in Wichita in 1952. He served in the National Guard until Boeing transferred Wilbur to Maine in 1957.
Wilbur’s first marriage to Joyce Louella Bell had five sons, Hugh Edmund (died at birth), Richard Eldon, Donald Eugene, Douglas Wayne and Wilbur Hugh Junior. They returned to Ark City in 1960 and he went to work for Cessna in 1964. That year, Wilbur and Joyce divorced. The next year, Wilbur married Kathlyn J. Ellis and raised her daughter, Shandon Lee Ann until their divorce in 1971. He married for a third and last time to Elaine Brunmeier in 1977 and raised her two daughters, Kathryn Gay and Eva Christine, as his own.
Wilbur had a number of hobbies to keep him busy. He was best known for collecting military insignia and playing the drums. Having started collecting Army patches in high school during World War II, many later collectors would accuse him of starting off with an unfair advantage in collecting. For this reason, he accumulated a number of rare insignia, which he passed off to his son, and was a long-time member of the American Society of Military Insignia Collectors (ASMIC). He started playing drums in high school and had an ear for music. He played in the Arkansas City Band and then joined a local Western swing band called the Flint Hill Playboys, which later changed their name to the Sons of the Saddle. They performed 30 minutes every week on KSOK. After returning to Ark City, he joined a five-piece Western band called the Fugitives that played local dances and released one album.
With three sons in the Army and Marines, Wilbur reenlisted in A Company, 1st Battalion, 69th Separate Infantry Brigade of the Kansas National Guard in 1976. Three years later, he transferred to the Kansas Air Guard’s 184th Tactical Air Command Fighter Group based at McConnell Air Force Base. He retired from Cessna in 1986 and from the Air Guard as a master sergeant the next year.
Wilbur spent his retirement researching the history of Ark City reading every issue of the Arkansas City Daily Traveler and talking about what he learned at the local archaeological and historical societies. He contributed research to Heather D. Ferguson’s Images of America, Arkansas City (2008) and Arkansas City, People Places and Events (2011). He also shared much of his research with his friend and reporter, Foss Farrar, for articles in the Traveler.
Wilbur was preceded in death by his parents and three sons. He is survived by his brother, Paul, and his two sons Chad and Sean of Ark City; two sons, Richard of Williamsburg, VA and Hugh of Davis, OK; three stepdaughters, Shandon Weston of Ark City; Gay Seidel of Ark City and Christy Delamatar of Marysville, OH that he raised as his own; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.