U.S. Sen. Bob Dole is expected to make an infrequent home-state appearance today so he can deliver a eulogy at the funeral of his former top aide Bill Wohlford.
Wohlford died Saturday of skin cancer at his home in Wichita. He was 59.
Former Dole staffer Nelson Krueger, of Lawrence, said the send-off for his popular colleague was expected to draw a big crowd of past Dole workers and supporters who admired Wohlford and his work on behalf of the senator and his constituents.
Wohlford was a large, farm-raised man who once played center, offense and defense, for the Kansas University football team. He was Dole's campaign manager in the contentious 1974 race against then-Congressman Bill Roy. He opened Dole's first Senate field offices across the state and later become Dole's administrative assistant in Washington.
After leaving Dole's staff he worked as general counsel for Slawson Oil in Wichita.
Krueger said Wohlford was the workhorse behind the scenes in the appointments of federal judges Deanell Tacha and Richard Rogers.
Wohlford would follow Dole on his tours through the state, Krueger recalled, and end his work days hands and arms covered with inked reminders of work to be done or questions to be answered for constituents.
"He always wrote on his hands and his arms because we didn't have Post-its," Krueger said. "He wasn't the immaculately groomed, pinstriped Senate staffer like people expect to see these days. But he helped everybody. He never finished a day until his phone calls were returned, and the piles were huge. Everybody gave the work to somebody they knew would do it."
Krueger said Dole sent a plane for Wohlford after learning his former aide was ill with cancer and had him flown to Florida for treatment.
"Dole never would let any of us quit or give up," Krueger said. "So Dole sent an executive jet aircraft up to Wichita and had Bill flown to some Hail Mary cancer clinic in Florida that Dole's on the board of. They thought maybe this medicine would work."
Services for Cecil Bill Wohlford are at 11 a.m. today at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita. An obituary for him appeared in Wednesday's Journal-World.