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Sheldon Kamen, businessman, former City Council member, dies at 80

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, at 7:41 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at 8:21 a.m.

Sheldon Kamen, a prominent Wichita businessman and former City Council member and school board member, died Wednesday night at Wesley Medical Center from complications of pneumonia.

He was 80 years old.

Funeral services will be 10 a.m. Sunday at Congregation Emanu-El, 7011 E. Central in Wichita.

Born June 24, 1932, at Wesley hospital, Mr. Kamen received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1969, a master’s in history in 1973 and a master’s in political science in 1979, all from Wichita State University.

He was a lifetime member of Mensa International, the high-IQ society.

From 1979 to 1985, Mr. Kamen served on the Wichita school board. He was the board’s president from 1981 to 1982.

He served on the Wichita City Council from 1985 to 1999 and was mayor from 1988 to 1989.

“He really cared about the community,” said former Mayor Bob Knight, who served with Mr. Kamen on the council. “We were together more than we were apart. He did what he thought was right. He was a hard worker, always a gentleman.”

Issues Mr. Kamen tackled through the years included the razing of the Allis Hotel, how the city should handle trash and recycling, the reconstruction of Kellogg and construction of K-96, Knight said.

“We were fortunate to have him on those issues,” Knight said.

Mr. Kamen was owner of Kamen Recycling, a family-owned business whose roots stretched back to 1896, headquartered at 800 E. 21st St.

“We were the first scrap yard in Wichita, and we’ll probably be the last one, too,” Mr. Kamen told The Eagle in 2009.

His wife of 43 years, Janice, told The Eagle on Thursday that she most loved his sense of humor.

“There were a lot of times when, if the situation got tense, he would say something to make everybody laugh to break up the tension,” she said.

She also liked his loyalty to Wichita.

“He always said Wichita was a good family town. He liked the friendly people,” she said.

He retired in August and stopped going into his office each day, Janice Kamen said.

He owned several buildings in Old Town and was instrumental in advocating for its development.

In April 1999, when Mr. Kamen stepped down from the Wichita City Council, Knight presented him with a key to the city for his years of public service.

“Over those 20 years of service, I’ve been perceived in many different ways,” Mr. Kamen was quoted in The Eagle as saying. “Joe Pisciotte (former City Council member and professor emeritus of the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University) said that I was a Wichita institution, while others said that I should be in one. But I think that I was the one getting an education during those years on the board and the council.”

Mr. Kamen is survived by his wife, Janice; children, Dr. Diane Kamen and her husband, Dr. Brian Dewhirst, of Charleston, S.C., and Daniel Kamen of Wichita; sister, Toba Kamen of Wichita; and grandchildren, Sophia and Olivia Dewhirst.

Memorials have been established with Congregation Emanu-El, 7011 E. Central, Wichita, KS 67206; and Inter-Faith Ministries, 829 N. Market, Wichita, KS 67214.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

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