There is a certain generation that is disappearing from our great city. Folks like Gerry McKee, Lois Metheny, Rosemary Rhea and Wayne Belser all important members of our community who gave back in so many ways have passed on to their eternal reward.
I had my first contact with the Belser family through Bob Belser who is a fellow member of the Lee’s Summit Historical Society. Bob was the treasurer for our organization for many years. I found him to be fun and interesting. We have often worked on historical research together.
Meeting Wayne happened when I called the late Lois Metheny regarding some historical information I needed for a history book I was helping to work on. Through various conversations Metheny found out that I wrote a column for the Journal. She invited me to a meeting of her group called “Lois Ladies.” The group was organized by Metheny because she wanted to get to know the ladies in the community better. The group played bridge and had lunch on a regular basis for years. Members included Paula Belser, the late Gerry McKee, Pat Manus, Pat Sudhoff, Betty Wood and Joan Manda.
Getting to know this group led me to become acquainted with Paula, Wayne and Mutley the wonder dog. It was also at this time that I attached the moniker of “Lincolnwood Diva” to Paula. By the way she has never lived this down.
Going to the Belser home was always fun. I found out many historic facts from the Belser’s. I discovered that Wayne was somewhat of a gastronomical engineer in his own kitchen. Besides cooking the regular bill-of-fare, Wayne had a flair for the unusual including, Persimmon cheesecake and corncob jelly. He could also can all kinds of vegetables. Recently, Paula admitted to me that Wayne was the real cook in the family. I can still see Wayne in his kitchen cooking up a storm with that charming grin on his face.
I found out during our conversations, that Wayne was the 13th of 13 children. His parents Marion and Leroy raised all of those kids in a small house on Douglas. I am sure that some interesting things went on in their household.
The Belser kids were all very intelligent. Some became Valedictorian’s of the class. All of them went to have professional lives. Leroy taught his sons to work on their own cars. Bob told me he can remember laying on his back on a cold garage floor working on the various cars that the family owned. With a laugh in his voice, Bob mentioned restoring a Model T. Wayne graduated in 1948 went into the military and then attended Rockhurst. He eventually attended the UMKC School of Dentistry.
He was known for his fine dental work. He even made some fake teeth for a niece who helped with a haunted house in downtown Kansas City. His practice grew by leaps and bounds. His gentle ways and mild mannered demeanor eased the tensions of many a patient.
Paula told me that she and Wayne met on a blind date arranged by a fellow student from dental school. Paula who was a Flight Attendant based in Kansas City and Wayne attended a Luau for the dental school. It was love at first sight. Romantic stuff if you ask me. Wayne even waited eight hours in the terminal for Paula to return from one of her flights. After a few short weeks they went to Miami, Okla. to get married.
The Belsers raised two great children, Steve and Lisa. They had a menagerie of pets over the years including a rabbit. Steve and Wayne restored a 1959 Corvette and a MG following in the Belser tradition of father and son working on cars.
Wayne was also known for making little animals and carvings out of various materials. Wayne made me an outhouse complete with Gumby inside.
When I think of Wayne, I will remember how his stomach shook when he laughed and how there was a gleam in those clear blue eyes. He was an unassuming, humble man with a deep love for his family and community.
Kathy Smith has lived in Lee’s Summit for 24 years and is the Property Manager for Summit East Plaza Apartments. She is president of the Lee’s Summit Historical Society, chair of the Lee’s Summit Preservation Commission and on several other boards and commissions throughout the city.