WSH reunion Saturday

Attendees of the 2015 Winfield State Hospital & Training Center reunion were, back row, from left, Margaret Johnson, Beth Moore, Wanda Cudill, Sharon Frazer, Terry Triplett, Sharnell Weakley, Jim Perrigo, Harry Walker and Delores Whiteman; middle row, Linda Hanshaw, Dorothy Brown, Shirley Booe, Juanita Triplette, Roberta Bowlly, Teresa Mugler, Barbara Anderson and Ruth Gordon; front row, Marie Smith, Charles E. Watson, Fred Johnson, Pat Swope, Robert McElhone and Louise Elam.

In what has become an annual event, the former employees of the Winfield State Hospital & Training Center will meet for the eighth year Saturday. All former employees, surviving relatives of the former state hospital employees or interested members of the public are invited to attend from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sirloin Stockade, 2825 N. Summit St., Arkansas City.

Reunion founders Sharon Frazer and Delores Whiteman are hosts for the event. There is no charge, and reservations are not necessary. Attendees will have the option to eat at the Sirloin Stockade all-you-can-eat buffet at their own expense. A senior discount is available.

In 2008, Frazer and Whiteman, both longtime employees of the WSH&TC, came up with the idea to host a reunion as a chance to catch up with former co-workers, reminisce about their days as employees at the facility, and to collect memories and mementos of the hospital.

Many items collected to date will be on display at the event, and attendees are encouraged to bring photographs, class pictures and programs, and other memorabilia to share. Reunion organizers would like to have originals or copies of items not already in their collection, with a long-term goal of donating the collection of items to the Cowley County Historical Museum for archiving and research.

The Winfield State Hospital & Training Center was established in the community in 1888 under the name Kansas State Imbecile Asylum, located just outside the city limits. Eventually, the facility grew to house as many as 1,495 patients at its peak in 1952. When the closure of the facility was announced in 1997, the patient population had declined to only 250 residents.

WSH&TC was a major employer in Cowley County for the majority of its days. The wages the hospital offered were said to be better than many other jobs available in the area and offered education and advancement opportunities for many who worked there. Those incentives drew workers not only from Cowley County but also from Wichita and Newkirk and Ponca City in Oklahoma.

Presently, the former site of the WSH&TC is occupied by Winfield Correctional Facility and the Kansas Veterans’ Home.

For more information, contact Whiteman, (620) 221-4898, or Frazer, (620) 221-2917.

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