Posted Date: 09/02/2021
Grace Jeannine Gwinner – Class of 1946
At some level every student dreams their words, achievements, or accomplishments will forever be remembered by their classmates and future generations of graduates. For Grace Jeannie Gwinner (Class of 1946), those dreams became a reality. Her words can still be heard ringing through the hallways of Dodge City High School 75 years later as the student body sings “her song” – Dodge High Forever.
Grace’s grandparents, Martin and Carrie Gwinner, moved to Dodge City in 1885 after hearing there were no bakers or candy makers in town. Martin planned to open his own shop but was surprised when he arrived to learn Dodge City already had five bakers. He eventually purchased and then sold a bakery and opened a confectionary, "The Palace of Sweets”. Decades later, in 1914, he turned the candy business into a cafe that served plate lunches and became a center of the town. The Gwinner Cafe was the family business. The entire Gwinner family - grandparents, parents, aunt and even a young Grace worked at the cafe and took all their meals there. Grace worked the cash register which may explain why she was a better businesswoman than cook!
Gwinner’s Cafe was the community center for Dodge City youth. It was a place kids needing money could find a job, the hangout place for high school students, and a place for courtships and making new friends. It was where Dodge City Junior High and Senior High school sports teams held their celebrations and banquets. It was during this time that Grace began considering writing a school song. Grace’s father, Donald, was a graduate of DCSHS and an accomplished musician. Grace learned to play the clarinet like her musical father (and grandfather – who played the clarinet in the Chalk Beeson Orchestra). Growing up in a musical family Grace loved singing in church and knew how much music could bring people together. The family story is that "Dodge High Forever'' was composed in the living room of the family home at 711 Central on an Everett piano, with her grandfather's and father's support.
After graduating from Dodge City High School, Grace graduated from the KU School of Education. She was a firm believer that education was one of the most important things in life. After graduation from KU, Grace moved to Kansas City and joined Connecticut Mutual Insurance as a salesperson where she was repeatedly the top performing salesperson in her class.
In 1951, she met Joe Zimmerman when she sold him an insurance policy. They were happily married for 64 years. After marrying, she left the insurance business to start a family. They had two children – Jane and Jack, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Starting a family did not slow Grace down, as she played golf and won many titles showing her beloved Basenji dogs. She also managed the family farm and was a tireless volunteer – serving on the board of at least 45 different civic organizations.
Writing the DCHS school song was just one of many contributions Grace Gwinner made during her lifetime, many of which have changed people's lives forever. And it all started in Dodge City!
Ring of Honor Induction - 2021