Wichita benefactor Jean Garvey dies at 90

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Jean Kindel Garvey, the Wichita philanthropist and arts aficionado whose passion for justice and education led her to help establish two schools in the city, has died at the age of 90.

Garvey, widow of businessman Willard Garvey, died Sunday night at her home surrounded by her family, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/VvltMn ). A memorial service will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday at the historic Orpheum Theater, whose continuing renovation she supported with a $1 million donation in May 2012.

Born Feb. 3, 1922, Garvey grew up in nearby Riverside and was attending what was then called Wichita University when World War II broke out in 1941. She had planned to be a diplomat in Latin America but left school to work for Swallow Aircraft in Wichita and later as a file clerk at Boeing.

She met Willard Garvey shortly before Christmas 1945. They married in 1946 and had six children, 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Friends and admirers said Jean Garvey saw the potential in all children and believed fervently in encouraging children in education.

"She gave them the same amount of attention and love," said Karen Norton, former head of the Independent School, a private institution founded by Jean and Willard Garvey in 1980 with the goal of providing a quality, affordable education to children from all backgrounds.

The Garveys had also been co-founders in 1963 of Wichita Collegiate School, another private school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

"She never did anything for her own glory," her daughter, Ann Garvey, told The Eagle. "She did these things just because it was the right thing to do."

Jean Garvey eventually earned a college degree from Friends University in 1988, at the age of 66.

She was a strong supporter of the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, the YMCA and numerous other nonprofits. She continued ringing bells for the Salvation Army's annual red kettle campaign well into her 80s.

"She was always happy, always joyful, always had a smile on her face, always positive," said Maj. Douglas Rowland, who heads the Salvation Army in Wichita. "We all could learn a lot from that spirit and who she was."

Linwood Sexton, a former Wichita State University star athlete who is black, recalled the days when Wichita's restaurants were segregated.

"That didn't stop Jean," said Sexton, 86. "She was so conscious of everybody being the same that there were times she would take black ladies to the nicer restaurants. Because of her status, they wouldn't run her out.

"She was one of the instruments in breaking down segregation as far as eating in restaurants in Wichita. She was a great person."