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Wilbert “Bill” Eubanks, Marine Corps veteran and retired KC firefighter, dies at 91

·5 min read

Wilbert Eubanks enjoyed traveling with his family. Summer months included visiting destinations such as Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

“We would hit the highway in his big blue conversion van,” said Reggie Eubanks, Wilbert’s son. “He’d pack about seven or eight of us. We would be on the back row fighting for elbow room.”

Reggie said after his father retired, vacations were timeless memories for Wilbert, as time spent with family was important to him.

“Family was his fun,” Reggie said. “He put the emphasis on family life. We never missed a family reunion.”

Often times one could find Wilbert with a camera in his hands, capturing life’s moments while exploring another city or state with his family.

“Traveling and photography really came into play once he retired from the Kansas City Fire Department,” Reggie said. “I was just looking at photos of us at Disneyland. We’d also travel to places like Denver and Detroit.”

Wilbert Eubanks died Nov. 20. He was 91.

He was born on May 31, 1930, to Eursel and Magglen Eubanks in Rocheport, Missouri. He attended public school in Hillsdale, Missouri, and W.W. Yates and R.T. Coles schools in Kansas City.

Affectionately known as “Bill,” he was recruited into the United States Marine Corps in 1950.

He served in the Korean War as a combat engineer until a shrapnel wound to his leg brought him back to Kansas City in 1951.

“His legacy is going to be servicing others,” Reggie said.

After Wilbert was discharged from the Marine Corps, he continued serving his community as a construction worker and firefighter.

“He helped to build many of the suburbs around Kansas City,” Reggie said.

In 1956, Wilbert married Gayle LaRue Hardwick and they had Reggie.

Family says Wilbert supported his son in his endeavors and was instrumental in him earning an Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corp Scholarship.

“Having a guy like him around made me want to make good decisions,” Reggie said. “It was by example. In my eyes, everything he did was perfect.”

Reggie says his father was also great at helping others. His skill set and humorous ways propelled him to be a crowd favorite.

“He could adapt his approach to who he was talking to and get the same result. He didn’t have the gift of gab which is why he words resonated with others,” Reggie said.

Wilbert Eubanks
Wilbert Eubanks

In 1989, after 30 years, Eubanks retired from the Kansas City Fire Department, Station 18.

“I don’t think that was for money, that was just him serving others,” Reggie said as he reflected on his father’s career. “He lived a lifetime of service. He did everything right to show me what right looks like.”

When Eubanks wasn’t traveling, capturing photos, or putting his carpentry skills to use, one could find him gardening, barbecuing and helping friends and family with his ability to renovate or repair anything.

Family says that when he couldn’t do it himself, he taught them how to do whatever needed to be done.

“He supported his community no matter what. There was an old school sense of pride in community so much so that he would not leave his neighborhood even facing the end,” Reggie said. “He was determined to be as much of man as he could. That determination and that sense of setting the example of being strong all the way up to the end.”

He leaves his son Reggie Eubanks; brother, Reverend Dr. Dewey Eubanks, Sr.; sister, Grace Eubanks; special nieces, Kristen Kountz and Paula Eubanks; granddaughter, Chelsea Heskett; a host of nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews, and relatives and friends who loved and will miss him.

Gonzella Brown, active church leader, died on November 26. She was 97.

Gonzella Brown was born on December 23, 1923, in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to Roscoe and Octavia Page. She was an only child.

At the age of 14, she accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior, and was baptized by Reverend Davis of Deans Chapel in Muskogee.

After marrying Lester Brown Sr., the two relocated to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1941, uniting with St. Stephen Baptist Church in 1943 under the leadership of Dr. John Williams.

Gonzella Brown
Gonzella Brown

Family says she was involved in the senior mission, was an associate chairperson of the minister and deacon wives, Mission #2 Good Samaritan, and secretary for 32 years for the women’s bible class.

Gonzella was also a member of the Open Door, worked with the bell choir, worked with the drum & bugle corps, and was a member of the Seton Center (The Buddies).

She leaves behind her son Lester Brown Jr., daughter Ella Brown, grandchildren Lester Hughes, Charles Anderson Jr., LaRena Brown, Noland Brown, Bridgette Anderson, Pamela Davis, and Tanya Perie, along with a host of great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, special cousin Sallye Holloway and special daughter Wanda Nelson.

Gwendolyn Ray, retired KCPSD Teacher, died on November 26. She was 96.

Gwendolyn Ray was born on November 6, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska.

She attended Long and Howard Kennedy Elementary Schools in Omaha and Central High School before moving to Muskogee, Oklahoma, where she graduated from Manual Training High School.

Gwendolyn continued her education and graduated from Kansas State Teacher’s College and Pittsburg State Teacher’s University.

She was a teacher in the Kansas City, Missouri Public School District for many years before retiring from Westport Senior High School.

Gwendolyn Ray
Gwendolyn Ray

She was member of St. Stephen Baptist Church for over 70 years, former department superintendent and teacher of the M & G Sunday School. Gwendolyn was also the secretary of Lois Missionary Circle, a member of the Extended Care Ministry and was honored as a Pillar of the St. Stephen Baptist Church.

She was also a member and volunteer at Palestine Senior Activity Center.

Gwendolyn leaves two sons Rodney Ray and Walter Ray, and one daughter Angela Ray Malik, as well as four granddaughters Tahirah Malik, Christina Pettus, Kamilah Robinson and Atiya Sanders, ten great-grandchildren, play daughter Patricia Sampson, other relatives, and friends.

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