The Heroines

Carol Wolfe Konek

is honored with a Medium Bench from Jana Konek, J. D. and Sharon Konek, and Jeff Konek.

The honor begins for us by calling her mother. As children of Carol Wolfe Konek, we have enjoyed the gift of her remarkable being for all of our lives. She is heroine defined, one of the most remarkable people, ever. She is the single best example many of us will ever know of one whose beliefs and actions are in unison. She has worked hard to arrive at those beliefs and has been challenged with each step. She is true to her beliefs, and her actions follow. She lives her conscience. She is tireless and believes her effort makes a difference as it does. It amazes me to think how great her influence has been on so many people. She definitely makes a lasting impression. The more you know, the narrower the path becomes. You can't know all that she knows and not act.

I'm not surprised by her love of putting together 2,500 tiny pieced, beautifully colored jigsaw puzzles. She is not daunted by its completion, but challenged by its possibility. This is her approach to life. She teaches classes, writes books, give lectures, stirs people to think in ways they had yet to consider. She adores her husband, children, grandchildren, family and friends. She orchestrates family gatherings around delicious food, beautiful table settings, lively conversation and laughter. She gathers people together and is curious about what they think and how they feel. She listens, asks questions and she cares about the answers.

I admire her tenacity and her willingness to champion thoughts and actions fueled by her intellectual curiosity and her belief in peace, equity, quality of life and love for all people. I admire her relentless pursuit of what she truly believes, even when it is very hard. Her compassion and love extend naturally to all who meet her. She understands the connections of the smaller to the larger, and the immediate to the long term.

As a child, I appreciated the way she welcomed into our home other children who were looking for a place to belong. I didn't question the presence of different kids, teenagers or grown ups around the dinner table, at holiday celebrations or sleeping in the spare bedroom or on the sofa. I knew she had enough energy and love to go around. I wanted to share her with others.

I love the spark that she sends me every time I see her, think of her or read her written words. I see in her the spirit of my great-grandmother, Nana, my grandmothers, Nana Fern and Nagymama, my dear great-aunts, Willa and Everta, my sweet aunts Linda, Loretta and Ruth, my cousin Nancy and all the other amazing women, relatives and others whose life lessons have taught her. Mom has a way of learning what is special and making it her own. I have not once in my whole life questioned her love for me. That is an amazing gift to give a child. She has inspired me always and I am grateful. For her generous, unconditional, constant love, I honor my mother as a heroine for all time.
By Jana Konek, age 39

She doesn't follow the crowd. She stands up for herself. She's free-willed and she likes to speak her decisions and opinions. She's very confident about others and herself. She enjoys her job and teaching the students about things they need to learn. She's a great person who likes to listen about your ideas and opinions and is very polite and generous. It would make Nana proud of me if I were a good student and got into a good college and had a nice job and home in a nice area.
By Dylan Konek, age 10

She paints a lot. She takes walks a lot with Nan. She treats people nice and us nice. She goes skinny-dipping. She drinks coffee. She takes us out to lunch a lot. She likes to draw and write sentences. She loves me.
By Damon Konek, age 6

Carol Wolfe Konek was born in Meade, KS in 1934, the first child of Leonard Merwin Wolfe and Fern Ford Wolfe, grandchild of Willis and Lula Norman Wolfe and Asa and Goldie Keltner Ford, and great grandchild of Henry and Hattie Keltner and Albert and Mattie Norman Jacob Wolfe.

Although rooted in Meade, she lived in Kansas City before she started the first grade in Plains, Kansas. Her family moved west to Long Beach for the third grade, and then to Seal Beach, California. She skipped the seventh grade when her family returned to Meade for her eighth grade through high school years.

After three-and a half years at the University of Kansas, she married her college sweetheart, John Konek, on December 22, 1954. John was a high school All-American football player from California, Pennsylvania, playing football at KU on a scholarship. Very handsome, tall, smart, funny, he was and remains her one great love.

She set out to be what she designed for herself, a devoted wife and busy mother. Carol had her first child, Julia Jill on January 30, 1956, her son John Douglas January 31, 1958, Jana Lynn July 2, 1959, and Jeffrey Scott April 19, 1962. Of all of Carol's accomplishments, she considers her most significant and valued one, motherhood. Carol and John recount to their children that each night, they tell each other how wonderful their children are.

She returned to Wichita State University to complete her Bachelor's degree (1963), and to pursue her Master's degree (1967). She taught composition as a teaching assistant, lecturer and instructor prior to completing her Ph.D. in 1977 by commuting to the University of Oklahoma.

She and John divorced in 1977 and reunited to live together within a year, to remarry in 1989. Although John and Carol discovered they had strikingly dissimilar backgrounds and interests, they shared their passion for each other. John saw Carol as "kind of a plain Jane, but a live one, with a smile that melted me." He recalls, "I could feel the tenderness and caring she gave me when I looked at her." Carol saw John as "the funniest, warmest, most openhearted man I would ever know."

She told me a secret once, that her life would not have been complete if she had not married this one dear man. He was her mission. He is the love of her life. John was a skilled and exuberant athlete and Carol became a teacher and writer. He plays bridge and she writes poems. He golfs and she does yoga. He prays and she demonstrates. He loves to stay home and she loves to travel the world. They share their adoration of their children and their extended families and the values they treasure most.

In the beginning of her teaching career, she developed composition courses for students who hated or feared writing, as she was particularly "devoted to creating access to higher education for students excluded in an earlier time." She loved to talk to community and business groups about educational equity and about liberatory learning.

As a returning student with a family, she was "particularly interested in the idea of the Open University as a place for nurturing the aspirations of all." She "sought to correct inequities of the past" by encouraging "what were at that time called the new students, first generation college students, racial and ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged, and people whose work or family responsibilities had interrupted their education." As a "student with acute performance anxiety," she "let her own terror of speaking, writing, thinking critically and questioning conventional wisdom" guide her in her "exploration of empowering pedagogues" for herself and her "oppressed allies."

In 1971, along with Dorothy Walters, Annette TenElshof, and Sally Kitch, she was a co-founder of the Center for Women's Studies at Wichita State University.

I Hear My Sisters Saying, co-editor; The Source Book: An Inductive Approach to Composition, co-author; Daddyboy: A Family's Struggle with Alzheimer's, author; Women and Careers: Issues and Challenges, co-editor, co-author.

Published essays, stories, and poems in journals including:
Peace Reviews: A Transnational Journal; RE:AL: A Journal of Liberal Arts; Kansas Quarterly; Hecate: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Women's Liberation; Affilia: A Journal of Women and Social Work; So To Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art; Changes: For People in Recovery; Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics; Mikrokosmos.

Submitted by John D., Jana and Jeff Konek

September 15, 1998