Lately, there has been increased interest in McCook by former residents who have achieved business success in other parts of the United States.
It makes you wonder, "What's generating the attention? What is it about McCook that is impressing people who once lived here, but have since made their mark in other places?"
Out of curiosity, I placed calls to two of the men I have been hearing about. I'm talking about Dan Childers, who now lives in Sebring, Fla., and Wallis Marsh, a resident of Houston.
Some of you may remember Dan and Wallis, or Wally as he was known when he lived here.
Childers Sees Potential
Dan -- whose business accomplishments include starting Auto Wizard LLC -- has fond memories of the McCook community, going all the way back to his grade school years in the late '40s and early '50s. At the time his family lived here, Dan attended all three Ward schools: East, West and North.
Then, after finishing school in Fort Morgan and Wray, Colo. and serving in the Navy, Dan returned to McCook from 1967 to 1969 to attend McCook Junior College.
In those years, he worked as a projectionist for Ray Search at the Fox Theater.
The two stays in McCook -- although brief -- left a lasting impression. As a result, on a trip back in 2004 to visit his father, Rayburn C. Childers, Dan made a purchase that has since led to other acquisitions.
"My first purchase was a 200-acre farm on the north side of McCook," Dan said. "It was too good a deal to pass up." But, more important for this area, it whetted Childers' appetite for more McCook investments.
He has since acquired the former East Ward School, paying $60,000 for the vintage building and investing an additional $650,000 to transform the structure into living units. And he isn't stopping there, giving his commitment to create condos on the top two or three floors of the Keystone Hotel.
"I see great potential in McCook," he said. "It is a clean, first class community with a way of life that is rare and precious. Marketing is needed, but with the right kind of promotion McCook could become a resort center for hunting, golf and riding and roping events. I'm looking forward to being a part of the town's growth."
Childers' investments didn't surprise Tom Buresh, who has been a friend since childhood. "Even as a child, Dan was a risk-taker," Tom says. "He was always urging me and our other playmates to take chances. That was more than 50 years ago, but it looks like he hasn't changed much."
Marshs "Bullish" on McCook
The Marsh twins, Ed and Wallis, came to McCook as seventh graders in 1980 and headed for college following graduation from McCook High School in 1985. Looking back, Wallis says the years here were life-changing for both him and his identical twin, Edward.
"The years in McCook helped set our life course," Wallis said. "We owe special thanks to four teachers: Dave Dunham, John Gumb, George Briggs and Doug Martin. They helped steer us along the right path."
To show his gratitude to them and the community, Wallis has become the newest $1,000 Founder of the McCook Community Foundation. The twins are also looking at other opportunities in the McCook area. "Ed and I are bullish on McCook and the surrounding grain-producing region," Wallis said. "With the water issue solved and economic conditions improving, McCook is poised for growth in the next 10 years."
After graduating from MHS, the Marsh twins headed for the University of Oklahoma, where both majored in petroleum engineering.
From there, Ed and Wallis launched careers in the oil business. Now, Wallis has his own company, Extex, in Houston, and Ed is a key executive for an Australian company, Petsec, in Lafayette, La.
In addition, Wallis and Ed have other interests, including Friocountry.com. That is the Web site for a resort rental property 90 miles west of San Antonio which was developed by Wallis and his wife, DeeDee. They are also instrumental in the School of Last Hope, a program to help youngsters in need.
"Even during their high school years, you knew the Marsh twins were going to be successful," John Gumb said. "They had a great work ethic and they were very determined. When the Marsh twins set their mind to something, you knew it was going to get done."
As an example, Coach Gumb told about the Iron Man Challenge, a 1,000-meter test for track athletes. Even though he was not a regular meet competitor, Wallis went out for track his senior year just to complete the Iron Man. He kept trying, and finally, in the last days of the season, he made the full 1,000 meters. "It was very emotional," Coach Gumb said. "The track was lined with team members and coaches, cheering Wallis on.When he made it, for the first time in his high school career, the team and coaches erupted in applause."
That memory speaks volumes. As we strive to uplift McCook, nothing will be of greater value than unwavering commitment.
That's what Dan Childers, Ed Marsh and Wallis Marsh bring to the table. We can all learn a lot from their lasting devotion to the McCook community.