Standing strong together
As the Sabetha community mourns a tragic loss, schools and communities near and far show an outpouring of love and kindness in a time of sorrow.
“Unfortunately, there is no magic potion that will erase this tragedy from the past,” said Todd Evans, Prairie Hills USD No. 113 superintendent. “What we have is each other. We have to lean on each other for support and understanding.”
People from area communities — many strangers — have opened their arms to the families of Steve Ukele and Lee, Carmen and Marlee Ukele and to the Sabetha community with a generous outpouring of love and kindness.
Open Arms, warm hearts
Neighbors from near and far are reaching out offering support. Evans said school representatives from across the state — and beyond — have reached out offering sympathy.
“All of our neighboring school districts have offered resources and personnel,” Evans said. “The positive intentions and caring of everyone involved will help us through this difficult time.
Many area schools organized “Blue Outs” encouraging patrons to wear blue to show support for Sabetha and the Ukele family. In addition, some schools have organized fundraisers to help the Ukele family with expenses.
Additional fundraising support also is being shown outside of schools.
Sabetha and Marysville football teams played each other on Nov. 25 for the 3A State Championship.
On Friday, Dec. 1, Sabetha basketball teams traveled to Marysville for their second game of the season.
In advance of the games, Marysville patrons sold t-shirts that sported a message of support “Faith Family Together,” with all proceeds were donated to the Ukele family.
Donations also were collected during the games. Fans sported blue and held a moment of silence in honor of the Ukeles.
The Sabetha football team played Osage City in the 3A playoffs on Nov. 10.
The community of Osage City collected monetary donations at area businesses last week. On Friday, Dec. 1, the basketball team hosted its season opener against Mission Valley. The school showed support by encouraging fans to wear blue. Players and fans gathered around the Osage City cheerleaders as they held up a card in support of the Ukele family.
Big 7 League Family
Holton fans were encouraged to wear blue at their basketball season opener against Perry-Lecompton on Friday, Dec. 1.
Hiawatha High School, a member of the Big Seven League, encouraged its students to wear blue in support of the Ukele family on Friday, Dec. 1.
The Perry-Lecompton school district is collecting donations to show support for the Ukele family. A check was presented to Sabetha school administrators for the family’s benefit, at the Perry versus Sabetha basketball games held Tuesday, Dec. 5.
The Wetmore High School Student Council and SADD groups hosted a bake sale and pop-a-shot fundraiser at the home basketball game against Centralia on Tuesday, Dec. 5. All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Ukele family.
Sacred Heart in Falls City
Fans were encouraged to wear blue gear in support of the Ukele family during the basketball game Friday, Dec. 1, between Sacred Heart and Sterling.
The Doniphan West High School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams asked for free will donations to benefit the Ukele family at its Nov. 30 game against Onaga and its Dec. 5 game against Troy.
Highland Community College
The Highland Community College vocal music students voted to take a free will offering for the Ukele family at their upcoming Holiday Concert held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 9, at Culbertson Auditorium.
Steve Ukele, Lee Ukele and Carmen Ukele were all alumni of HCC, graduating in 1975, 1978 and 1996, respectively. S. Ukele played in the Alumni Football game for more than 30 years. L. Ukele is a past member of the Alumni Board.
Topeka Blue Thunder Wrestling Club
The Topeka Blue Thunder Wrestling Club asked for donations to be gathered for the Sabetha Kids Wrestling Club in honor of the Ukele family, who have been strong supporters of youth wrestling for many years.
Jill Hedger of Andale is hosting a fundraiser through Tupperware sales. She is donating 40 percent of sales to the Ukele family.
Christmas Concert in Sabetha
Ryan Manuel will be performing an Acoustic Christmas Benefit, which will be held from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Dec. 16, at Smoke’s Tavern. All proceeds and tips from the evening will be donated to the Ukele family.
In addition to the outreach from surrounding communities, the Ukele family has received local support in the way of meals, help with farming and in helping Carson and Tanner Ukele.
There are several options for memorials. The memorials listed below may be given in honor of the person and sent to Popkess Mortuary, 823 Virginia Street, Sabetha, KS 66534.
Sabetha Kids Wrestling Club or Sabetha First United Methodist Church.
Tanner and Carson Ukele Education Fund, Sabetha Swim Team or NorthRidge Church Children’s Nursery.
Tanner and Carson Ukele Education Fund or Sabetha Elementary School Marlee Ukele Fund.
At 8:05 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, a two-vehicle accident 1/2 mile north of 318 Road on U.S. Highway 75 claimed the lives of 62-year-old Stephen Ukele, 42-year-old Carmen Ukele and 11-year-old Marlee Ukele, and seriously injured the fourth passenger — 59-year-old Lee Ukele.
L. Ukele was airlifted by Life Star to KU Medical Center, where he is still recovering. The driver and passenger in the other vehicle also were airlifted by Life Star to KU Medical Center.
The Ukeles were traveling home from Hutchinson just hours after celebrating the Sabetha High School 3A State football championship with Lee and Carmen Ukele’s sons who are members of the football team.
L. Ukele and C. Ukele have two surviving sons — Tanner, an SHS senior, and Carson, an SHS sophomore — who were on the high school bus, also traveling home.
S. Ukele is survived by wife, Pam, of the home; a son, Ryan and wife Emily Haug of Olathe; a daughter, Anna and husband Aaron Weiser of Olathe and a granddaughter, Adelaide Weiser and a granddaughter due in February 2018.
Krista Wasinger98 Posts
Krista Wasinger is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2011. She specializes in city reporting and feature stories, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Krista is a 2004 Fort Hays State University graduate with a degree in communications studies with an emphasis in journalism. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and four children.