Gail Edward Sarver was born September 28, 1918, on the farm of his parents, Daniel and Kate (Finnesy) Sarver, in southern Penn Township, Osborne County, Kansas, where he lived his entire life. He was a quiet and modest person who as a boy attended the Riverside one-room School, District Number 18, and graduated from Osborne High School in 1936. The Great Depression of the 1930s caused his parents financial difficulties over insurance that forced them to let him take over the farm in his name. Gail scraped together the necessary four hundred dollars and so saved the farm.
In order to make additional money to survive the times, Gail and his brother Linus rented for ten cents a day a machine called a “tumblebug,” which they used to build silt dams for ponds for local farmers and ranchers. His difficulties continued, as they first had to raise money in order to buy the fuel (kerosene) to run the tumblebug; then Gail had to put up a team of horses as collateral for a tractor, which subsequently broke an axle. Lightning then killed one of the horses. It was symbolic of the trust of the times that Gail’s banker stayed with him until he could get out from under these difficulties and set the farm once more upon a sound financial footing.
Gail’s induction into the cattle business came when at a sale in Osborne he bought a cow and calf for twenty-eight dollars. The next morning he sold the cow to a neighbor for thirty dollars. From that humble transaction Gail went on to make over nine million dollars as a cattle rancher and buyer. He expanded the farm into one of the state’s largest cattle operations and became known throughout the United States as people over the years came to respect his knowledge of the cattle industry. He received many awards from the Kansas Livestock Association and thoroughly enjoyed helping people. Whenever someone was too poor to pay for the funeral or tombstone of a loved one, or if an especially gifted but poor student needed money for college, he would step in and help out. He shunned the spotlight but instead worked his kindnesses from behind the scenes. Gail never sued anybody and never had an argument; he just found an excuse to leave the conversation.
On February 9, 1948, Gail married Audrey R. Hahn in Osborne. The marriage, however, did not last very long and ended in divorce. Gail spent the rest of his life working the family farm until his death on December 25, 1989, after which he was buried in the Osborne Cemetery. The next year he posthumously received the first-ever Osborne Area Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year for his establishment of the Sarver Charitable Trust, through which his money was to be used to benefit the citizens of Osborne County for many years after his death. Though he would probably not have wanted it so, it is hoped that through the Osborne County Hall of Fame the memory of Gail Edward Sarver will be honored and remembered for generations to come.
Gail Sarver Charitable Trust
“The Sarver Charitable Trust was established by Gail Sarver in 1987 and was funded after his death in December 1989. Mr. Sarver was a very successful cattleman and farmer, attributing his success to his many friends who helped him through his life. The charitable trust, he explained, was his way of returning to the community the help he had received. The bulk of his estate was used in funding the trust.
In the trust, Gail provided that fifty percent of the net income is to be equally distributed, annually, among five charities, namely: Fort Hays State University Endowment Association, for agricultural purposes; the American Cancer Society; the Salvation Army; the Leukemia Society of America; and the St. Aloysius Catholic Church of Osborne, Kansas.
Gail realized that charitable needs change through time, so he did not specify precisely how the remaining fifty percent of the net income is to be distributed. The only stipulations he placed was that this income was to be distributed for charitable purposes in Osborne County, Kansas. Therefore, only charitable organizations located in Osborne County are eligible to receive funds from the Trust. A board was created under the terms of the trust to determine the recipients of the net income; the board members were originally Pete Bohm, William C. Cady, Paul S. Gregory, Melvin Wilcoxson and Stephen Windscheffel. Mr. Windscheffel has since resigned from the board after moving from the area, so Frances Leadabrand of Osborne, Kansas, agreed to be a member. The Board established the Gail Sarver Memorial Scholarship, which is for graduating high school students as well as individuals who have graduated and are currently or will be attending a post-secondary school. Students who are eligible for this scholarship include those who have graduated from a high school in OsborneCounty (whether or not actual residents of Osborne County) and Osborne County residents who have graduated from high schools in another county.
As of December 2011 the Trust has awarded over $2,416,315 in scholarships and over $1,745,165 in charitable organization grants, for a total of over $4,161,480 in total awards. The generosity of Mr. Sarver, and his concern and contribution to the community will be appreciated for generations to come.” — Board of Directors, Gail Sarver Charitable Trust, September 2012.