By the time those lucky enough to reach their 86th birthday celebrate the feat, it would generally be expected they would be living at a slower pace.
For longtime Wichita commercial and investment real estate broker Darrell Leason, however, slowing down isn’t part of the equation.
“What I do has never been a job,” Leason said. “What I do is a hobby that makes me a pretty good living.
“If I weren’t doing this, what would I be doing?”
At a luncheon on Dec. 10, Leason will become the 12th recipient of the Wichita State University Center for Real Estate and Kansas Certified Commercial Investment Members Lifetime Achievement Award, which will serve as a tribute to his nearly 60 years in the business.
The event is scheduled to take place beginning at noon at WSU’s Marcus Welcome Center, with doors opening at 11 a.m. Cost is $50 for members of the commercial investment organization and $65 for nonmembers.
Although Leason, 86, said he doesn’t yet know exactly what he will say during his address at the luncheon, he added that he feels humbled by the selection.
“I was surprised,” Leason said. “Honestly, I didn’t feel very deserving, but I am honored.”
After a five-year stint selling women’s shoes, Leason, a North High graduate, said he began working for Colby Sandlian in December 1958. Sandlian is another Wichita real estate icon and past Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
Leason said he closed his first deal on a small lot on East Central – earning a $137 commission – shortly after he was hired, and he never looked back.
“I had sold shoes with Colby at Baker’s Shoe Store in Wichita when he was going to East High and I was going to North High,” Leason said. “I was selling shoes down in Houston and Colby came down there and asked me why I was still selling shoes. He told me I should come back to Wichita and get into the real estate business with him.
“I think I was with Colby for about 10 years before I pulled out and went into business on my own.”
Rod Stewart, a longtime Wichita Realtor and past award winner, said Leason can always be counted on for solid real estate counsel.
“He gives of himself and his vast store of experience to all who seek his help,” Stewart said. “Nobody in our brokerage community has as many ways to make a deal or solve a problem in negotiations.
“He is a good man.”
In addition to still going to work every day at his Darrell Leason Realtors office on South Broadway, Leason also regulary attends CCIM meetings and bimonthly Society of Exchange Counselors meetings, which occur at different locations throughout the U.S. The society bills itself as a “creative real estate marketing” organization that emphasizes real estate as a people business.
“The big change that I’ve seen in my 57 years in the business is the advent of technology,” Leason said. “When I got in, we didn’t even have calculators. We had adding machines, but we never used them.
“The Internet has really changed things, something that I have mixed feelings on. In the old days, you met with a person and you looked that person in the eye. You could pick up on body language and things like that.
“Today, you go on the Internet and you talk to someone when you don’t even know what they look like. I still sit down with people and find out what their goals and needs are. It’s just a different way of doing business.”
Leason said he encourages young people interested in getting into the commercial real estate business to focus on their education and find a mentor who has been successful in the business.
He said he has no plans to retire.
“The way I do it, this is retirement for me,” Leason said. “I don’t have to answer to anyone, and I can travel and do what I want to do. I think that’s a pretty good description of retirement.”
The deadline to register for the luncheon is Dec. 4. To reserve a spot, call the Wichita Area Association of Realtors at 316-263-3167.
Past Lifetime Achievement Award winners
2014: Donald Slawson
2013: Rod Stewart
2012: David Burk
2011: Herbert Krumsick
2010: Stephen L. Clark
2009: Nestor and Michael Weigand
2008: Jack DeBoer
2007: George Ablah
2006: Jack Hunt
2005: Colby Sandlian