Gone, but not forgotten. That phrase is often used in describing the deceased, and it is certainly true of the late Richard "Dick" McCall, who died earlier this week.
Soon after McCall's passing, several community members recalled the great impact he had on Newton through numerous avenues.
"He was a community leadership icon," said Newton resident Sue Ice. "His commitment and influence has just really been great in the community, in a wide variety of areas — the chamber, hospital, Prairie View, just about every area of the community you can think of."
Ice worked closely with McCall in organizing local watch parties for supporters of Kansas Jayhawks basketball — but that was only a small fraction of his involvement in the community over the span of 50 years.
Being a local businessman (owning and operating the family store, McCall's Shoes, for several years), McCall was a major contributor to any downtown initiatives. Along with being a chamber member, fellow businessman Phil Anderson, of Anderson's Book and Office Supply, remembered McCall being chairman of the retail committee for several years — and coming up with the group's name, Toot-N-Newton. He also spearheaded efforts, including fundraising, to decorate downtown Newton for Christmas.
"You have to have leadership when it comes to community projects and Dick was right there for every major project," Anderson said.
Along with having served as Chamber president and on the Newton Medical Center board, McCall received the Distinguished Service Award from the Newton Board of Education— having been a driving force in the 100th anniversary celebration of Newton High School in 1985.
"When Newton High School celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1985, it wouldn't have been the celebration it was without Dick McCall," Ice said. "He was really kind of head of the whole thing."
Organizing a weeklong celebration that brought back NHS alumni from across the country was no small feat, and it even led to national recognition. For those who know McCall, planning something like that was just in his character — he had the ideas as well as the leadership to make them happen.
McCall was also a charter member of Trinity Heights United Methodist Church, a testament to his vast community contributions, which also included membership in the Newton Lions Club, delivering Meals on Wheels for 30 years, helping raise funds for the first Newton tornado sirens and much more.
Through it all, what those who worked with him said stood out was his level of commitment to making Newton the best community possible.
"I've just never been around anyone with that type of leadership," Anderson said. "He was very involved in almost every community project you could think of."
“Dick McCall’s legacy of leadership and community service are unsurpassed and continue up to the present," read the citation of his induction into the NHS Hall of Fame in 2011. "His generosity and influence have hugely impacted the community and helped shape it into the caring, progressive high-quality hometown that it is today.”
McCall died Wednesday, May 29, and services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at Trinity Heights.