KEARNEY — Longtime Kearney banker Wayne McKinney died at his home Tuesday. He was 94.
McKinney was considered one of the architects of Kearney’s diversified economy because he actively recruited some major employers to Kearney.
He also was involved in community service and was a key volunteer for a number of nonprofits. He was treasurer for many years for the Kearney chapter of The Salvation Army and Kearney Goodfellows, both organizations that serve the needy in Kearney.
McKinney worked 63 years as a banker, beginning his career in 1952 photographing and filing checks at what was then Platte Valley State Bank. In 2015 he retired from First National Bank as chairman of the bank’s board of directors.
It wasn’t the only board on which McKinney served. His leadership was sought by multiple organizations, among them the boards of Good Samaritan Hospital, Richard Young Hospital, Kearney Area Community Foundation, Kearney Public Schools Foundation, University of Nebraska Foundation and Nebraska Business Development Corp.
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As president of the Civic Development Corp. — the forerunner of the Economic Development Corp. of Buffalo County — McKinney worked with other financial leaders to recruit new businesses and broaden Kearney’s economic base.
The Economic Development Corp. built a factory and then recruited Rockwell Manufacturing to Kearney. The factory employed 700 in good-paying jobs, McKinney said, and when it closed he and other business leaders recruited Cabela’s to establish the company’s first retail outpost outside its headquarters in Sidney.
“I really enjoyed the Civic Development Corp.,” McKinney said in a Kearney Hub interview in May when the Kearney Sertoma Club presented him its annual Service to Mankind Award.
He said in the Hub interview that the farm crisis of the 1980s was the toughest period of his career, but as farmers foundered, other sectors of the economy kept Kearney afloat. Education, health care, retail and later tourism proved the value of a diversified economy, especially after Interstate 80 opened in the 1970s near south Kearney.
McKinney believed it was significant that another sector — philanthropy — has contributed substantially to Kearney’s economic strength and quality of life.
“Kearney has good givers,” he said about the generosity that combats poverty and improves life in Kearney through cultural offerings, parks and public facilities, to name a few of the areas touched by the “good givers.”
Among the many community projects that benefited from McKinney’s fundraising were the Museum of Nebraska Art, the Kearney Area Family YMCA and many annual campaigns, including the Kearney Area United Way.
McKinney lived most of his life in Kearney, except for a short stint as a business teacher in Nebraska City while his wife, Virginia, attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
He did a hitch in the U.S. Army, earned a Master’s Degree in accounting and marketing at Denver University, and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Banking and the Harvard University Senior Bank Officer’s Financial Management Program.
McKinney earned his bachelor’s degree at Kearney State College, and later supported KSC’s transition to become the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
He and Virginia’s daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Phil Kommers, live in Kearney. The McKinneys have two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
McKinney’s civic activities have included exulted ruler of the Elks Club, and membership in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, American Legion, Shriners and Kearney Country Club.
He’s been involved in numerous other organizations: Nebraska Diplomats, Kearney Chamber Board, Rotary, Nebraska Bankers Association and UNK Chancellor’s Advisory Council and Business and Technology Council.
Many organizations have recognized and thanked McKinney for his community service and leadership: Chamber Envoys’ Friend of Kearney Award, Kearney Public Schools and KSC outstanding alumni, KSC Foundation Founders Award, Nebraska Diplomat of the Year and Kearney Hub Freedom Award.
He said in the earlier Hub interview that many strengths have contributed to Kearney’s success: schools, health care, law enforcement, businesses, city manager form of government and location.
He said it was exciting to be a part of the community’s progress and watch it grow to 33,000 population.
“I’m extremely proud of Kearney. I was born and raised in Kearney when it was 6,000 and 7,000 in population. I’m very proud of all the progress,” McKinney told the Hub in May.
Funeral arrangements are pending with O’Brien Straatmann Redinger Funeral and Cremation Services.