Ardis E. Sowards
is honored with a Brick from Her Children,Stephen and Michael Sowards and their families
What has Ardis Sowards done to become a heroine? Ask her many friends and the members of her family and they will let you know. Her contributions have rarely been newsworthy and only a few of them took place in a professional arena. However, as the people mentioned above would testify, she is singular in her loyalty and commitment to the people she loves. For the men in her family, Kelley, Steve and Mike, her devotion, encouragement and endless belief in them was a crucial ingredient to the professional accomplishments they prized most.
Ardis Elizabeth Sowards was born on October 11 of 1923 at Wesley Hospital in Wichita. Her younger sister, Janis, and she were the children of Arthur Houston Rutherford and Pearl Elizabeth Stokes Rutherford. Ardis, a child of her father's "second family," grew up close to her five older half siblings and her mother's relatives in south central Kansas.
Ardis lived all her early life in Wichita at 119 South Chautauqua and walked from that address through her education at Sunnyside Elementary, Roosevelt Intermediate, and East High School. She became a university student, but the war effort interrupted her studies until years later. During the war years, she worked at Cessna Aircraft doing cost accounting. Her lifelong friend, Charles Goodrum, introduced her to his best friend Jesse Kelley Sowards, who became the love of her life. Following their January 6, 1946 marriage she worked to support him through college at WSU and his doctoral work in history at the University of Michigan.
As Ardis and Kelley added sons, Steve and Mike, they made subsequent moves to Fulton and Maryville in Missouri, Washington D.C. and then back home to Wichita where Kelley joined the History Department at Wichita University in 1956. Before long, Ardis became an active citizen of the university community which, by itself and as part of her beloved Wichita, was another subject of her passionate loyalty and affection.
Old friends were met again upon the return to Wichita and some new ones made. Always involved, she has been a WSU Faculty Dames president, Democratic precinct committeewoman, Den mother, and deaconess at Fairmount Congregational Church. She is proud of her prairie origins and has enjoyed belonging to and serving as an officer for many local organizations.
Her world, however, has extended far beyond Wichita through Kelley's extensive travels and appointments at other universities through which she further satisfied her curiosity about people and places. Among her many kindness, she cared for older family members when they were ill, she tutored a family friend through correspondence school, and she serves as an English language partner for non-English speakers.
Indulgent with Kelley and her sons, she faced the entertainment challenge of sitting through an uncountable number of historical (and usually bloody) film epics and has been a good sport through them all. She also has been a stalwart fan of her sons' and grandchildren's achievements in sports and other activities.
In conclusion, and most important to her family, Ardis remains a sensitive and loving mother, the devoted wife and friend to our father, a model for her grandchildren to admire, and a treasure to us all.
September 3, 2000