After he arrived in Wichita in 1932 at the age of 8, Patric Rowley spent the next eight decades boosting Wichita, her arts and her spirit.
“He saw the bigness in everything,” said his son Bruce. “He believed he could become a nationally known artist. He taught us and everyone that you could do anything you wanted.
“He grew up in the Great Depression and was always chasing wild dreams.”
Mr. Rowley, a Renaissance man of sorts – an artist, writer, business entrepreneur, Rotarian and civic volunteer – died Monday. He was 92.
Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church in Wichita.
Mr. Rowley was born Feb. 1, 1924, in Fairland, Okla. He grew up among some of the poorest of the poor. His father was an itinerant welder, and the family moved frequently before arriving in Wichita.
Mr. Rowley grew up in the Midtown neighborhood in a particularly hardscrabble area of North St. Francis next to the grain elevators and railroad tracks.
“He lost an ear lobe playing around by the grain elevators,” Bruce Rowley said. “They were working on them, and a big board came flying off the side with a nail sticking out. The board missed him by an inch, but the nail sliced his ear lobe off.
“Dad used to go down there and watch the trains go by and tell stories of growing up on the tracks.”
During World War II, Mr. Rowley served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters with the U.S. Navy. After the war, he returned to Wichita and – on the GI Bill – earned his degree in English from the University of Wichita.
He worked first with Kansas Gas & Electric and later in New York City at Electric Bond & Share. When he returned to Wichita, he went to work at McCormick Armstrong printing company before starting his own firm, Communication Arts Associates.
He was a highly skilled writer and artist and taught at Kansas State University, Wichita State University and the Wichita Art Association. His artwork was featured in the August 1955 issue of Life magazine. He wrote “Artists: A Kansas Collection,” traveling throughout Kansas and surrounding states to interview artists.
Organizations where he volunteered included the Kansas Food Bank Warehouse, Orpheum Theatre, East YMCA, Old Cowtown Museum, Wichita City Cultural Arts Commission and WSU Alumni Association.
“He was a creative thinker and a passionate lover of people; everywhere we went, we ran into friends of my dad,” Bruce Rowley said.
Memorials have been established in Mr. Rowley’s name with the Kansas Food Bank’s Food for Kids Program, Friends of the Orpheum Theatre and the Kansas Humane Society.