The late John Hybsha lived in Newton most of his life, but he had friends throughout Marion County and was well-known in the Goessel community.
His wife, Wilma, described her husband as 6-foot-3, a disciplined, well-built, and strong individual who enjoyed telling jokes and cowboy stories and wrote several poems.
“John liked kids,” she said.
He worked as a firefighter in the Newton Fire Department until his retirement 22 years ago. He also was a volunteer for emergency medical services. He was certified in the handling of nuclear and other toxic material and was an instructor in the same.
John spent many years as a mentor in the Boy Scouts and was awarded the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor granted to a Boy Scout leader.
Bob McVey of rural Peabody became acquainted with John as a Boy Scout. He said John helped him earn at least three badges and the Eagle Scout Award. John also introduced him to horses.
“John set me on a horse when I was 10 years old, and we rode down Newton’s Main Street together,” he said. McVey now raises geldings.
John was an active member of the Masons and played the tuba in the Masons’ Million-Dollar Band. As a pilot, he sometimes flew sick children to Shriners’ hospitals.
Wilma said John was good at telling stories and writing poems. He was master of ceremonies at Masons banquets.
“They don’t know what they are going to do without him,” Wilma said.
Leroy Schmidt of rural Goessel knew John well.
“He considered me family,” the 57-year-old man said. “He was like a father to me.”
Both men grew up with fathers who farmed with horses, and John’s father, who lived near Medicine Lodge, purchased seed wheat from Goessel-area farmers.
The two men met after John had retired from active employment and was operating a leather shop. They partnered to form Osage Mule Co. LLC, which provided rides to children and adults on mule- or horse-drawn covered wagons and gave demonstrations of horse-powered farming at Goessel Threshing Days. Their entries were a familiar sight in many parades. The men hosted fun-filled events at Newton’s East Lake for children with cancer.
In the 1990s, John and Leroy became involved in the Flint Hills Overland Wagon Train at Cassoday, which is in operation every week during tourist season. Their wives helped prepare camp meals.
During the years with the wagon train, John reconnected with McVey and became friends with Ray and Jeff Davidson of rural Marion.
“John was an individual a lot of people should aspire to be because of the kindness and goodness he had in him,” McVey said. “He always was willing to help.”
A few years ago, John and Wilma joined Leroy’s church, Goessel Mennonite Church. He also was active in Goessel Lions Club. The Hybshas spent this past Christmas with Leroy and his wife, Nancy. The kindhearted cowboy gave his tuba to their son, Arik.
After several years of declining health, John died April 16 at the age of 77. After a memorial service at Goessel, he was buried at Claney Cemetery southwest of Marion, where many of Wilma’s relatives are buried.
(Her parents were the late Lloyd and Mildred Suffield, who retired at Lincolnville after farming in Marion County most of their life.)
In a fitting tribute to his life, John’s body was transported to the cemetery for almost a mile in a wagon pulled by mules. Arik joined him on the wagon seat. McVey and Davidson accompanied the wagon as outriders.
The entourage was greeted at the cemetery by a group of Masons playing bagpipes and firefighters from Newton in an antique fire engine.
“John had a good life,” Wilma said. “He lived it fully and had a good time doing it.”