KCK museum has late pope's bed on display

The Strawberry Hill Museum in Kansas City, Kan., has a little piece of history that is a step closer to becoming a saintly relic.

Years ago the museum received the bed the late Pope John Paul II, who was beatified Sunday, slept in while flying on a specially outfitted TWA plane during his American visits. It also has the toothbrush, toothpaste, china, glassware and silverware he used.

The museum — dedicated largely to the varied ethnicities of Kansas City, Kan. —doesn't advertise the bed or even mention its presence in the museum brochure.

"It's one of those hidden treasures of Kansas City, Kansas," said museum board member Sam Shublom.

How did the volunteer-run museum score this peculiar piece of history?

It turns out that the entire collection of pope-used items was stored at the TWA base in Kansas City for safekeeping. But it wasn't so safe after all — or so the story goes.

"They were having problems because people were taking pieces of it," said museum board member Tom Tomasic.

A chair and other items disappeared. Back then, at least a dozen men from Strawberry Hill worked for TWA. One of them approached a priest who knew exactly where it would be safe, Tomasic said.

"So this guy takes this bed to keep it out of the hands of thieves," Shublom said, pausing to laugh. "That's the polite way of saying it."

TWA agreed to the arrangement, he added. They know because TWA knew exactly where to find the bed when the pope returned. The airline called and asked to borrow it back in 1995 and 1999.

"TWA contacted us and said they would take good care of it," Tomasic remembers.

True to its word, TWA returned the bed after the pope's visit.

These days the bed, clad in a white cotton bedspread, is stored behind glass for safekeeping. And while the neighborhood museum might seem an odd repository for the relic, Shublom can't help but think it's a tad fitting as well.

"It's kind of got a KCK quirkiness about it," he said.