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Archive for Sunday, October 28, 2001

Last Man’s Club is down but not out

October 28, 2001

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— Members of The Last Man's Club have been playing blackjack every year since 1937.

Formed by 14 Wichita East High School seniors who vowed that their friendships would not fade after graduation, the club met again Friday.

But now the club, whose bonds remained strong despite war, love, careers and births, has only two members left Wichitans Howard Babcock and Vincent Hiebsch, both 81.

"I can't recall that we ever fought with each other," Babcock says.

"If we did, it was over who was winning at blackjack," Hiebsch teases.

Over the years, members have died one by one. The first two went shortly after the group was formed the rest served in World War II and Neil Murney, a retired farm and ranch real estate agent, died from cancer Sept. 22. Neither Babcock nor Hiebsch is striving to be the last man.

"You keep healthy as long as you can, but you really don't want to be the Last Man," Hiebsch says.

The pair say the key to their longevity has been their activity. Hiebsch, a retired oil man, plays tennis as often as he can. Babcock plays golf and joins his wife, Ruth, on two-mile walks at a Wichita mall.

"You've got to look forward. You've got to plan ahead, and you've got to do things," Hiebsch says.

There have been plenty of hardships along the way. Hiebsch's first wife of 56 years, Gerre, died from Parkinson's disease two years ago.

Ruth Babcock is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, but Babcock says his son and grandchildren keep him looking to the future to events like next year's meeting of the Last Man's Club.

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