Ray Braun, a longtime Edgerton business owner and community leader, has passed away.
He was 90.
Braun opened his first service station on U.S. 56 in March 1946 on the site currently occupied by Dee’s Mini Mart.
He moved to his most recent location on the corner of 4th Street and U.S. 56 Highway two years later and spent more than 60 years pumping gas, repairing tires, and serving his community.
Among his accomplishments as a mayor and city council member were helping to extend water and sewer service to Edgerton.
He was also a champion for the construction of Hillsdale Lake.
Braun was born on Jan. 29, 1922 in a Kansas City, Kan. hospital and raised in Edgerton.
His father William, a banker, died in 1935, leaving behind Ray, his mother and three sisters.
“His life insurance paid $25 per month,” Ray told The Gardner News in 2006. “He had $1,000 worth of life insurance and the only way you could get it was $25 per month.
“So my mother boarded school teachers. And I always told them that was a handicap for me, because I was 13 years old going to high school and two of the teachers stayed at my house.”
Braun developed his solid work ethic early in life.
When he was in high school, he spent his summers working on the farm of the Carl Gillespie family north of Edgerton.
In 1939, Braun and a group of friends decided to go to Minnesota to work the harvest when they wrecked the 1929 Chevrolet they were using for transportation.
They had to ride back home on freight trains, changing trains in Sioux City, Omaha, Council Bluffs and St. Joseph.
Braun later got a job at North American Aviation building B-25s.
When WWII erupted, he joined the Navy where he spent several months working aboard airships patrolling the Atlantic for German submarines.
Later, just after Braun was transferred to the USS Franklin aircraft carrier, a case of the flu saved his life.
He was hospitalized and that kept him from boarding the ship just before it was bombed on March 19, 1945.
“I was supposed to go on an aircraft carrier, but I missed it and it saved my life, because all my buddies got killed,” Braun told The Gardner News. “USS Franklin. I got sick and missed the ship. They said I could catch it at Pearl Harbor, but when I got there, it was gone.”
After the war, Braun returned to Edgerton, started his business and became active in the community.
He set up shop in a $125 surplus tool shack from Sunflower Army Ammunition. He spent another $125 for the lot.
When the service station down the street came up for sale two years later, he jumped at the opportunity to move into a larger facility.
The station was built in 1932, the same year U.S. Highway 56 was constructed.
Not long after leaving the military, Braun was deputized by Sheriff George Abell and began serving Edgerton not only as the local mechanic, but also as the local lawman.
During his time as deputy, he had several run-ins with a local petty thief named Richard Hickock.
Hickock would later be executed, along with Perry Smith, for the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kan.
Truman Capote wrote “In Cold Blood” about Hickock’s and Smith’s crime spree.
When the movie version of the book was filmed in and around Kansas City years later, Braun’s service station was used in a scene.
Braun also served several terms as mayor and city.
He said the city council began working on water service in 1950 and had it in place two years later.
Riding a progressive wave, the city installed a sanitary sewer system 10 years later.
Braun also served on the board of directors for the former Gardner Community Hospital, which was founded by the late Dr. A.S. Reece.
He said the hospital, which started in a building adjacent to Park and Recreation building in downtown Gardner, moved to the building now occupied by Meadowbrook Rehabilitation Hospital on the east side of town.
In addition, Braun spent 14 years working for the establishment of Hillsdale Lake.
He was among the local contingent that made several trips to Washington D.C. to testify before House and Senate committees about the need for the lake as a future water supply.
Funeral services are pending.
Longtime community leader Ray Braun dies