An Opportunity to be Better - Biographies

Cathy Haney

Mary Catherine "Cathy" Haney was born July 4, 1940 in Broughton, Kansas, the only child of Joseph "Joe" Vernon Haney and Josephine Midland (Scheinkoenig) Haney.

Haney grew to adulthood in Broughton, a small village in southeastern Clay County. Her mother's family had lived in the vicinity, as well as Clay Center, for many years. Although her father was born just over the Kansas state line in Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, his family had lived in Grant and Wildcat townships of Clay County’s east-side neighbor Riley County. Joe worked at a variety of jobs, principally connected with Broughton's grain elevator.

Haney while museum curator.

She was eight years old when the family drove to Morganville in late August 1948 to see Velma Carson's pageant production.

Haney graduated from Clay Center Community High School in 1958, attended Cloud County (Kansas) Community College and enrolled in Kansas State University in 1960 as a freshman in agriculture, but did not continue her studies.

She had an artistic side that led her to take a course in floral design in Denver, Colorado. It was something she enjoyed and many agreed she had a talent for it. But it was not an avocation well suited to a rural community. Haney hoped to open a shop in Colorado, where her father had relatives. Those who knew her are under the impression that her mother vetoed the idea, not wanting her only child so far from home.

Broughton was razed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960s in preparation for the filling of the Milford Reservoir. The Haneys moved to Clay Center. Her father died in January 1974 and her mother in 1996.

Haney's artistic interests also led her to become an almost-compulsive collector of hats. Many people in Clay Center referred to her as "The Hat Lady."

Both of her parents were interested in history, something their daughter shared. Her mother researched the lives of the Black citizens of Clay County.

Haney in one of her hats.

Haney was a person of high energy and threw herself into things she was interested in. At one point, she was elected president of the Clay Center Chamber of Commerce and was a member for more than 40 years. She was the driving force behind the Clay County Historical Society's museum and the curator at the time of her death.

In certain ways, Haney shared many traits with Carson. Both were friendly, outgoing, energetic and were what many would have described as being "characters." Both pressed their point of view, although Haney was more likely to be direct about doing so, while Carson was more indirect.

Both Carson's family and Haney's family were Democrats in very-Republican Kansas. So when the county party met, there were few in attendance, allowing both families to be very familiar with the other.

Haney was devoted to the museum and was typically encountered by a visitor with her glasses stored on her hair bun. She was firm in her opinions, but would abandon her previous position without qualms if shown to be wrong. This led to many comical interactions with her assistant and subsequent museum Director Jeff Gaiser, who seemed to particularly enjoy kidding Haney. Yet she was very aware that memory is an unreliable faculty and so when passing on some anecdote, frequently prefaced it with, "Now this is history according to Cathy."

She seemed to have a special affinity for the Morganville-Fèves story and would cite it as an example of how big things sometimes happen in small places. While expressing some regret that her efforts in the early 1990s in researching the story did not reach a wider audience, she was very pleased in 2013, when it began receiving the attention she felt it deserved.

Cathy Haney died in Salina, Kansas on June 21, 2016 after suffering a relapse of colon cancer. Inurnment was in the Greenwood Cemetery in Clay Center.