Hundreds of mourners gathered Sunday evening to pay their respects to writer, reporter, outdoorsman, adventurer and friend Charles W. Gusewelle.
The visitation and memorial service at Unity Temple on the Plaza summoned fond stories and smiles from people who knew the longtime Kansas City Star writer, who died Tuesday at age 83.
His wife, Katie Gusewelle, and his daughters, Anne and Jennie, greeted all at the visitation even as the line snaked up the length of the sanctuary.
A slide show of photographs of Gusewelle on his travels and with his animals and friends played above an open casket. Outside in the entryway, Gusewelle’s books were displayed along with more photos and his Underwood typewriter.
“He was wonderful,” said Linda Prugh of Overland Park, who said she never missed one of Gusewelle’s columns in the The Kansas City Star. “His Paris notebook I have. It’s wonderful. His Rufus chronicle is wonderful.”
Renee Davis of Kansas City recalled first hearing Gusewelle speak at a library in Warrensburg, Mo. She later met him at another event at Barnes & Noble in Kansas City.
“I got there early and there he was,” said Davis. “I could just talk to him for a half hour before anybody came. We talked about pets and animals and life and people in general. He had this openness about him where he could talk one-on-one about anything. He didn’t know me or anything but he treated me so nice.”
Rob Dodson, a retired senior advertising account executive at The Star, recalled mentioning to Gusewelle three things they had in common: Both were graduates of Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., they both worked at the newspaper and they both patronized Phil the barber. “His eyes would just light up. Phil was his barber for many years, and he wrote a column about Phil.”
Margaret Strader of Lee’s Summit met Gusewelle through rooming with Katie in college. “I loved his books,” she said. “I have all of them and most if them are autographed.”
Sisters Sally Swanson of Denver and Amy Kirkpatrick of New York City were childhood friends of the Gusewelle daughters, and their families often traveled and did activities together.
“We have a lot of childhood memories,” Kirkpatrick said. “We would vacation with them and go to their farm and spent many, many hours doing crafts at their house.”
“He would actually take us out to the woods in the winter and we would find animal tracks,” Swanson added. “And then he would fire up a little tin can of wax and we’d pour it in the animal tracks and then we’d have prints from the animal.”
Darrell Dains of Rockville, Mo., was a teenager when he began hunting with Gusewelle and other friends at his cabin property. “We spent hours hunting turkeys, deer and quail,” he said. “We talked about life.”
Susan Hervey of Kansas City said Gusewelle and her father, the late radio personality Mike Murphy, were good friends.
“They shared a lot of interests and humor,” she said. “Charles was so supportive of Dad writing his book. Personally I remember him just as being an interesting, kind, wonderful man.
“He was a master writer,” Hervey continued. “He just would put those words together that made you laugh, made you cry, made you feel something. His gentleness of spirit always came through. He was just a gentle soul. He genuinely wanted to touch people and make life better and happier.”