Three Lessons I Learned from My Dad, Doc Wollen


#1 Community matters.

Instead of the handout generation, my dad was raised as part of the “let me give a hand” generation. Back in his day, his hometown Garnett might as well have been light years from Kansas City. If things were going to get done, it was up to the community to make it happen and folks took care of each other. If someone was in trouble, you did what you could to help and even the smallest gesture could mean a lot. For example: Dad remembered how much he appreciated the gift of cold watermelon after a high school football practice and for years took it upon himself to buy truckloads of melons for local Olathe players. He understood the importance of opportunities for young people, so he involved himself in helping to support and build the local Girl Scouts of America Council and also served as a district director for Little League Baseball. He saw the value of exercise and education so he involved himself in Parks and Recreation and the Johnson County Community College Foundation. Dad participated on most of the major fundraisers for Grace United Methodist Church, but you would also see him working with the local “Carpenters” group doing maintenance work for those in need or handyman jobs around the church. He was proud to be one of a number of men and women who keep the spirit of service alive in Olathe whether it was with a hammer or a pen. He proved that the enthusiasm of like-minded people can make a difference.

#2 The Measure of a Man is how he treats folks on a daily basis, not how many accomplishments he can rack up on a resume.

Dad received trailer loads of awards and honors for his service work over the decades. However, what stays with me is how easily he connected with people. He genuinely was interested in their stories whether the person was a patient or a clerk or a grand poopah. He liked people, even the crazy ones. And people cared for him in return. When word got out that his nickname was Teddy Bear, Dad’s office was overrun by gifts of bears in every shape and size. When he went into the hospital the first time, we received a stack of get well cards higher than the coffee table. Dad’s Daughters were expected to treat people with respect and if you could throw in a bit of love and laughter, well, then all the better.

#3 Living is about being engaged in life.

My dad didn’t like to sit home. He enjoyed being out and about, his wife by his side. After he retired, Dad stayed involved in his volunteer activities. Making a difference was fun to him. He understood that leadership can be exercised at any age and a helping hand is always appreciated. Over the last two years of his life, he tapped into his inner tenor and relished being a member of the Trails West Barbershop Chorus, a whole new experience.

But the common theme throughout these lessons is that Dad valued friends. He admired people who brought something to the table—a sense of humor, insight, wisdom, muscle, whatever the gift. People matter, and it is this lesson none of us should ever forget.

Dad died September 10, 2013.


  1. Geri

    Thanks for a poignant reminder of what matters, Cathy. May these loving memories comfort you in your grief.

  2. chic katherman
    chic katherman09-11-2013

    This was lovely Cathy. What a valuable life and amazing soul. I am sorry for your loss, although what a miracle to know this man well. Blessings to you today and everyday.

  3. Heather Ashby
    Heather Ashby09-11-2013

    Cathy, what a lovely tribute to your dad. I love the story of the watermelons and helping out at with a hammer or a pen. He sounded like an awesome individual. May these memories bring you comfort. God bless.

  4. Jean Brashear
    Jean Brashear09-11-2013

    And you are living your life very much by his example. Thinking of you, dear friend. Holding all of you in my heart.

  5. Beth McRoberts Zebley
    Beth McRoberts Zebley09-12-2013

    This is a beautiful tribute to your wonderful Dad. He was a great friend to myself, and many members of my family. So many stories come to mind of his selfless acts of kindness. We Olathe kids grew up knowing and loving Doc.

    You, your beautiful Mother, Terri and Tammy will be in our prayers.


  6. Ashley DeVille
    Ashley DeVille09-12-2013

    It’s Sandra Greenman. I have 3 names. Trying to keep SPG off the internet. Sorry to hear about your father.

  7. Lindy Darby
    Lindy Darby09-12-2013

    What an amazing man your Dad was. Like many others who knew him, I have
    my own fond memories … May God bless your family in this time of loss, as you
    celebrate the life of our very own “Doc Wollen”. Your Dad was a very special man.


  8. Gary Ulmer
    Gary Ulmer09-12-2013


    People pass through your life that there is something makes them special. It is hard to pin point what those qualities are, but they give you energy rather than taking it away. Your father was one of those. I admired him, others did as well, and without a doubt his legacy here in Olathe will stand forever.

  9. Sarah Duguid
    Sarah Duguid09-14-2013


    Your Dad was such a special part of our family and I am so sad to hear of his passing. Those three lessons are what I will always remember him for. He touched more lives than I ever think he knew – and all because of the way he lived his life. He epitomized the Olathe that I love and hope will not be lost. I will never forget the kindess that he (and Sally!) showed Grandma each and every day. In a way, he was the Grandpa that I never had. My best to you and your family during this difficult time. Please give your Mom my love and a hug.


    P.S. I bet he’s already had coffee and a good laugh with Grandma, Cindy, and the rest of the gang. 🙂

  10. rhycleKeync

    Enjoy your blog ) my blog

  11. Ashley DeVille
    Ashley DeVille01-07-2014

    Hi Cathy,
    I just wanted to say hello.

"The Books You Love To Read. Three time winner of the Historical Love and Laughter award" - Cathy Maxwell