Winkler serves his community in myriad ways

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JULIE ANDERSON
Dedicated, industrious and hard-working are the words people use to describe Gene Winkler.

Winkler, who has lived in Marion since 1961, runs a number of business ventures, as well as takes part in community organizations and activities.

?I enjoy keeping busy and having things to do,? he said.

From tires to video, Winkler is involved in a number of business pursuits.

Winkler opened his first business, Gene?s Tire and Service Center, after he was told he would have to relocate to Wichita in his current job.

After purchasing an empty and putting up a building, Winkler opened the store in 1980.

?I decided I wanted to work for myself,? he said.

But it took more than one store to keep him busy.

Since 1984, Winkler also has operated a business videotaping weddings, special events and school sporting events and programs. He sells the tapes to kids and parents.

Winkler recently bought his seventh camera, this one a digital model. He learned what worked best by trial and error.

For the past 10 years, Winkler has operated a travel business out of his store, too.

?It?s just something we didn?t have in Marion,? Winkler said.

He said he saw a company looking for people to sell tickets and signed on with them. He soon will be switching to a different company.

Winkler said he enjoys the computer work and likes learning the new programs needed to sell tickets.

In addition, he also is an agent for Alltel, selling cell phones since 1991.

More recently, Winkler began a disc jockey service. He said he had a lot of CDs and thought since he had them he might as well do something with them. He expanded the service three or four months ago to include karaoke.

?I just enjoy being around people and working with people,? Winkler said.

Winkler said he tries to keep everyone happy.

In addition to his businesses, Winkler is involved in a cleaning service with his wife. They clean one business every night and two businesses on weekends.

Although Winkler said his schedule can be a headache sometimes, and he has experienced some hard times along the way, he said owning his own business is worth it.

After 20 years, Winkler decided it was time to sell the tire and service business. For the past year, he could not find mechanics and had to do all of the work himself. He will still help in the tire business if he is needed.

Winkler also will continue to run his travel business and video business from the same location.

This will allow Winkler more time for some of his other pursuits.

Included in this is the ambulance service. He has been an emergency medical technician since 1972. For several years, he has served as crew captain.

He took the EMT course because people were the program needed volunteers when it was getting started.

?Once I got into it, I just loved it so much,? Winkler said.

He said he likes being able to help people and seeing how he is making a difference. ?Every run is different,? Winkler said.

He is on call 12 hours a day, five days a week and one to two weekends a month.

Larry Loomis has known Winkler for about 23 years. He met him through their involvement in the local country club, the Chamber of Commerce, and working and having coffee together.

?The best think he has done for Marion is the EMT volunteer job, when hardly no one else would do it,? Loomis said. ?He kept it going and improved it.?

JoAnn Knaak, EMS director, said Winkler is one of the more dedicated workers.

Knaak described Winkler as dedicated, conscientious and having a sense of humor.

Winkler also has other community involvements.

He serves on the Chamber board, and does the accounting work for the organization. Winkler said he has been told he is on the board for life. He also helps out with activities at the Chamber, including playing Santa during the holidays.

?I figure if I do my turn, someone else will do it for my grandchildren,? Winkler said.

The Kiwanis Club and County Club also absorb part of his time. He is the treasurer for both groups.

Winkler also serves as chairman of the board for the hospital district and is on the Chingawasa Days planning committee.

Loomis said Winkler always works hard.

?If something needs getting done, just ask Gene and he will get it done,? he said.

Winkler said he is able to juggle all of his responsibilities through creative scheduling.

He said when he goes to meetings three to four nights a week, it makes the one to two nights he is home seem nicer.

He enjoys living in the small town because people are friendly and it is close enough to Wichita and Newton to go to a movie or out to eat at a special place.

Winkler was not new to the area when he moved to Marion with his wife, Doris, in 1961.

He was born in Herington and lived in Lost Springs, where he attended school through sixth grade. Then, his family moved to Axtel, where he completed high school.

Once out of school, he moved back to Lost Springs, then came to Marion, where he and his wife built their house.

Gene and Doris Winkler have two children, Bruce and Sherri Hess, and three granddaughters. They all live in Marion.

In whatever spare time he has, Winkler enjoys playing golf and making items out of stained-glass.

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