WICHITA — Maura McEnaney was a young journalist who had moved to Nevada decades ago when she first encountered Wichita's Garvey family at their ranch there, including late patriarch Willard Garvey. Willard Garvey's image superimposed over a map that Pan American World Airways once gave him to document his many travels on that airline. "I remember him just like spouting off all these things that he had been involved in, and I sort of didn't really believe it," McEnaney says. "I thought he was telling some tall tales, truly."
Then, more recently, the now Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist spent six years researching the businessman's life for a book about him. Interviews with people such as Craig Miner, the late historian, architect Sid Platt and Misco Industries chairman Bud Beren set her straight about what Garvey did and accomplished.
"That was kind of the fun thing about writing the book," McEnaney says. "Everything he was talking about was true."
LibertyTree Press is releasing "Willard Garvey, An Epic Life" next month.
LibertyTree is part of the California-based Independent Institute, a public policy research and education foundation. Garvey's son-in-law, David Theroux, is president of the institute.
Though Garvey's story is a personal one, Theroux says Garvey's life is intertwined with the development of modern American life.
"It's a huge slice of that history."
McEnaney says Garvey was something of a more sophisticated Forrest Gump, who regularly found himself part of local, national and international history.
"Willard is very much that kind of a person ... in a far more prestigious role," she says.