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Photographer's works in demand

Managing editor

At nearly 94 years old, you would think master photographer Les Broadstreet of Marion would slow down — just a little bit.

By his standards he has slowed down, but the nonagenarian keeps a steady pace and continues to show his life works of photography and other displays.

Currently, an exhibition nearly a city-block long is being shown at Kansas Masonic Home, 401 S. Seneca St., Wichita, of Broadstreet’s famous photos.

Broadstreet was known in Marion County as one of the photographers of choice in the 1940s and 1950s when weddings and family portraits were carefully planned and choreographed events.

He moved on to Wichita, becoming the premier photographer to the rich, famous, and infamous of the city — capturing images of attorneys, bankers, business owners, and other up-and-coming society moguls of the time as well as local landmarks and skylines.

“I’ve been saying this is my last showing,” Broadstreet said Friday, but when he’s asked to show his works, he usually says “yes.”

This time, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse. An employee of Douglas Imaging in Wichita told Jill Laffoon, of Kansas Masonic Home, about Broadstreet. So, she contacted Broadstreet.

“I thought I was through with all of that,” Broadstreet said with a smile, “but she was so convincing and willing to do the work to get it ready. I couldn’t ask for more than that.”

Laffoon worked on the display for two weeks, carefully framing and hanging each photo.

One display and project which Broadstreet is particularly proud of is one of Catholic priest Emil Kapaun, the Marion County native who is being considered for sainthood.

It was 1951 when Kapaun died in a Korean hospital following a bout with pneumonia. Broadstreet had his photography studio on Tee Lane in Wichita when Kapaun’s mother brought in the last portrait she had of her son. She needed a copy of it for the newspaper with the headline to read, “Father Emil J. Kapaun, heroic priest of the Korean Conflict, dead.”

According to Broadstreet, sometime later, when Kapaun Memorial High School was being built, he sent a letter to then-Bishop Mark Carroll stating that he had an idea for a photographic mural.

After much consideration of the photographs available, three were chosen — Kapaun celebrating mass for a soldier just before a battle, Kapaun and a medic aiding a wounded man in a battlefield, and Kapaun sitting on a fender of his jeep, writing a short note home to his parents as artillery boomed in the distance.

The mural also included an oil portrait of Kapaun by Broadstreet and a cross from Korea.

Broadstreet had the privilege of photographing Kapaun as he celebrated his first mass at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church in Pilsen after his ordination. The local priest had also been in many wedding photos that Broadstreet had taken.

Broadstreet and Carroll became friends and no one else but Broadstreet was permitted to do Carroll’s official portraits.

“I had photographed (dioceses) bishops for 45 years,” Broadstreet said and the mural was one of the highlights of Broadstreet’s career.

This and other timeless photos are on display 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday in May at the retirement facility.

Last modified May 5, 2011

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