Through nine decades in Wichita, including more than 40 years in the real estate business, Don Ablah became someone who knew the city better than most.
“He was an astute repository of people in Wichita,” said “Hatman” Jack Kellogg. “He’d be hard pressed not to know more than a little about a lot of people.”
His knowledge of the community included a comprehensive understanding of area properties, too, such as a lot of the ones in Delano where Kellogg’s Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works is.
“When the Lebanese first came to town, Delano was really the hop-off place,” Kellogg said.
Ablah’s parents, Frank and Nellie Ablah, immigrated from Lebanon.
“Don had a soft spot for this area, I think, possibly for that reason,” Kellogg said.
Ablah was “so completely immersed in (the) history of business properties of Delano,” Kellogg said.
“It wasn’t just about selling a piece of property. It was about what that property was formerly.”
For instance, Ablah was working with a client on a piece of property next to Kellogg’s family’s former business in Delano, and he made a point to go and talk to Kellogg about it.
“He really wanted to know the backstory, and I just loved that about him,” Kellogg said.
After working for a time at his family’s Ablah Hotel Supply, Ablah started his real estate career in 1981 and soon met Martens Cos. president Steven Martens, who knew and worked with Ablah’s brothers, George and Amil, and their sister, Lucille Barkett.
“Just great, great people, all of them,” Martens said. “He was very family involved.”
Martens called Ablah a great negotiator.
“His end goal was always a win-win solution.”
The two worked together quite a bit on properties along North Rock Road and Comotara.
“We became even closer working on that.”
Martens said that over the decades, he probably worked more with Ablah more than anyone.
“He was that significant in my career and played a huge role.”
Ablah was known in real estate circles beyond Wichita, too.
“He was an awesome man and titan of our industry,” Kansas City attorney Korb Maxwell said in a message to an Ablah family member after hearing Ablah had died.
Martens said there were always two constants with Ablah when it came to doing real estate deals.
“When it was time to be all business, Don was all business. But if there was an opportunity to bring a little humor to a situation . . . he enjoyed injecting the humor and eliciting the laughs.”
As Wichita State University’s dean of university libraries, including the Ablah Library, Kathy Downes knew Ablah professionally.
“But also due to the nature of who he was, he always took a personal interest as well,” she said.
Downes said Ablah’s family donated money for the library to support the community and education, “and Don represented that.”
“He was always interested in how the library was doing. He was always interested in the students,” she said. “We just had long conversations on his thoughts on education.”
Ablah’s deep concern for the community “just made him somebody you wanted to be around and talk to.”
“I just had so much respect for the man . . . and his caring about so many parts of the city.”
Martens and Kellogg both remarked on Ablah’s compassion and gratefulness.
“Obviously, he had a tremendous love for this country and the opportunities that were presented here,” Martens said.
As Kellogg said in a message to a family member upon learning of Ablah’s death, “Our town will be less compassionate and a much smaller place without him.”
This tale was initially revealed May possibly 23, 2023, 1:28 PM.