Local high schoolers help former U.S. Rep. Larry Winn celebrate 98th birthday

A group of Shawnee Mission East freshmen helped former U.S. Rep. Larry Winn celebrate his 98th birthday at Brighton Gardens Sunday.
A group of Shawnee Mission East freshmen helped former U.S. Rep. Larry Winn celebrate his 98th birthday at Brighton Gardens Sunday.

As part of the school’s Youth Engaged in Service volunteer day this past spring, a group of Indian Hills 8th graders headed down Mission Road to Brighton Gardens to spend the afternoon visiting with seniors.

The group made many connections, but by the end of the visit, they found themselves gathered around a table listening to a series of fascinating stories from one resident. Larry Winn grew up in Kansas City, Mo, attending Southwest High School where he ran track and played football. He went on to KU, where he took a degree in journalism, which set him up for a job as a sports broadcaster for WHB, covering the Chiefs, Athletics and Jayhawks.

After transitioning into his family’s homebuilding business following World War II, he entered the political realm. In 1966, he was elected to Congress, where he represented Kansas’s third district until 1985.

And this August, he told them, he’d be turning 98 years old.

The students and some of their parents were so taken with their afternoon with Winn that they promised to come back to help him celebrate. So on Sunday, Winn found himself surrounded by a group of friends new and old, all wearing party hats and singing to him as he blew out the candles on a sizable cake.

The students — Helen Sniezek, Brooke Birling, Lauren Birling, Alexis Proctor, Gabby Cappenechi and Annabelle Moore  — said they had looked forward to helping mark the occasion. (His actual birthday is August 22).

“We kind of felt like we had a connection, and it would be fun to come back and celebrate,” said Moore, who happens to be the granddaughter of former Rep. Dennis Moore, who served in the same seat as Winn in congress.

“I have the feeling we’ll be back to celebrate 99 and 100,” said Brenda Sniezek, the mother of Helen, who helped organized Sunday’s party.