Wayne Unruh Obituary, Death – On October 28, 2022, Wayne Allan Unruh, 77, gently passed away in his Hutchinson, Kansas, home while being attended by his wife Helen and children Brad and Emily. He was one of four children born to Stella (Reimer) and Raymond Unruh on July 23, 1945, in Newton, Kansas. Everyone Wayne came into contact with experienced positive change. While his friends, refereeing partners, business partners, First Team employees, and many others lament the loss of this unique man, his family mourns the loss of their husband and father. Everyone who knew Wayne adored him. Wayne frequently became a dependable friend and mentor to many individuals as a result of his genuine interest in others. All ages comprised his pals. Wayne had the gentle, uncommon ability to make any circumstance better.

Wayne had an exciting childhood while growing up on the farm owned by the Unruh family near Moundridge, Kansas. He was raised with an unyielding work ethic. He supported harvest activities as far away as western Kansas while working for a local farmer. The Unruh family was warm and happy. He first went to a nearby primary school before switching to Moundridge High School. Wayne participated in football, basketball, and track during his time at MHS. After graduating from high school, Wayne enrolled at Bethel College, where he continued to excel in sports as a linebacker and running back for the Thresher football team. Wayne first met Helen Graber, the woman who would become his wife, at Bethel College.

In Pretty Prairie, Kansas, on December 23, 1966, Wayne married Helen Graber. They commemorated their 55-year union. The births of son Brad and daughter Emily were two of their greatest blessings. The closeness of their family and friends, as well as the contributions Helen and Wayne, have made to their community, bear witness to their lifelong commitment to one another. Wayne’s professional career was likely boosted by their cooperation. Wayne has a great officiating career that lasted for almost 50 years, rising to the pinnacles of college basketball refereeing.

With Helen’s help, he progressed from his very beginnings as a referee in rural grade schools to regional high schools and eventually tiny colleges. When Wayne joined the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference in 1969, his transition into major college officiating officially began. He joined the Missouri Valley Conference in 1981 and the Big 8 Conference in 1978. Wayne also obtained his international FIBA license, which enabled him to referee numerous significant basketball competitions throughout the globe. From 1978 to 2013, he officiated sporting events in thirteen different nations.

Among his notable basketball officiating accomplishments are his participation in four post-season Missouri Valley Conference tournaments, five post-season Big 8 tournaments, four World University Games, and numerous exhibition games for the US Olympic Team.
In 2015, Wayne was honored by being admitted into the Kansas Collegiate Officials Hall of Fame. Up until his recent passing, he remained a member of the organization’s board of directors. Wayne began his career as a teacher at Sedgwick High School, Wellington High School, and Hutchinson High School before turning to basketball refereeing.

At all three institutions, he served as a football assistant coach. Wayne resigned from his position as a teacher in 1974 to work as an administrative assistant for the National Junior College Athletic Association. In Hutchinson, Kansas, Wayne and his business partner, Jeff Roth founded First Team Inc. in 1996. They persevered despite their modest beginnings, and First Team became one of the nation’s top producers of basketball equipment for homes and institutions. First Team keeps expanding into new markets outside of traditional basketball as they experience growth. One of Wayne’s primary civic activities was the Hutchinson Rotary Club. He joined the group in 1999. Wayne accepted the Rotary ideals, and he looked forward to the biweekly meetings.

In 2014 and 2015, he presided over Rotary. In 2018 and 2019, Wayne and Helen served as co-chairs of the United Way of Reno County’s High Impact Club. They were involved with the First Presbyterian Church’s youth LOGOS program and the Hutchinson Meals-on-Wheels program.
His wife Helen of Hutchinson, Kansas; son Brad and wife Erica of Las Vegas, Nevada; granddaughter Stella of Brooklyn, New York; daughter Emily and husband Karl Hudson; brother Calvin and wife Marlene of McPherson, Kansas; sisters Maggie and Gary Davenport of Overland Park, Kansas; Debbie and Terry Schmidt of Lawrence, Kansas; and in-laws Mary and Mark Collins of Greely, Colorado; are Wayne’s survivors.

His parents, parents-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece all died before him. Cremation has already occurred. The book can be signed by friends at Elliott Mortuary from 9 am to 5 pm through Wednesday, November 9. On Wednesday, November 9, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, there will be a visitation with the family in attendance in the Elliott Chapel. Pastor Christy Kass and Keith Neil will preside over the Celebration of Life on Thursday, November 10, 2022, at 10:30 am at First Presbyterian Church of Hutchinson. Donations to the First Presbyterian Church of Hutchinson, the United Way of Reno County, or Hospice and HomeCare of Reno County may be made in place of floral tributes and can be made payable to Elliott Mortuary, 1219 North Main, Hutchinson, KS, 67501.