Videos & Speeches

Now let me turn to a story about a very special Kansas family. And unfortunately, it’s a sad story.

You know, I often describe to my friends and colleagues in Washington, D.C., about how special Kansas is and in a special way how we live our lives there. Families are important. The values of family run deep in our communities. And we have neighbors who care for each other and we all know each other one on one, name by name, family by family. We know where they go to church, we know what schools their kids are in, we know how their families are doing. And when tragedy strikes, the entire community is shaken. 

I pay tribute today to a family from north central Kansas, the Mulls. Glenn Mull and his wife Elaine, their daughter Amy Harter and their granddaughter, Samantha Harter, were traveling to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association trade show in Nashville on February 3rd when the plane they were in crashed during its second landing attempt. The jet went down about ten miles from the airport in Bellevue, Tennessee.

I saw on the Internet a Bellevue resident, who I don’t know, but she wrote this tribute to Glenn Mull, the pilot. And she said, “Glenn had reached the most bustling section of our community at the busiest time of the day, and he would have seen hundreds of homes with cars in the driveway, a Kroger grocery store packed with shoppers, an assisted living center, and an enormous YMCA, where hundreds of families were streaming in and out to swim in the indoor pool, to exercise, and to take classes.” Again, this is the Bellevue resident speaking, “Glenn didn’t know this, but school was cancelled for our kids, so a larger number than usual of them were at the Y with their parents. Experts are saying now that the last-second sharp turn Glenn made in the seconds before the plane crashed indicated that he had made a heroic decision to hit the one spot in the vicinity where no one on the ground would be hurt. And Glenn managed to spare all of the lives.”

The Bellevue resident went on to describe her own community as one which is ‘‘filled with people who shared Glenn’s obvious affinity for family.’’ She said that Bellevue residents “are talking about Glenn Mull, the hero, who we believe had the extraordinary courage and presence of mind to save our families, even as he realized he couldn’t save his own.”

Glenn was born in Great Bend and raised on his family farm near there, where his parents instilled in him a strong work ethic and a sense of integrity. He went on to graduate from Kansas State University with a business degree, and K-State is where he met his wife Elaine. They moved back to north central Kansas to grow the three-generation family farm and eventually to raise their three children. He promoted his life’s work through representation of Kansas farmers and ranchers in organizations like the Kansas Livestock Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Glenn and Elaine were well-respected, not only in the cattle industry, but also in their community for their generous commitment to improving the lives of their neighbors. 

As a founding board member of Pawnee Valley Community Hospital Foundation, one of Glenn’s top priorities was improving the health care in Larned, Kansas. Their hospital was faced with potential closure in 2009 until efforts were made by the city of Larned and community members like Glenn to solve the problem and to keep the hospital doors open. For rural communities like Larned, access to the types of health care facilities offered by Pawnee Valley Community Hospital is essential to their community’s future.

Elaine, his wife, was a tireless heart for service and volunteered in a number of organizations, including the Fort Larned Historical Society, the Larned Hospital Auxiliary, the Santa Fe Trail Center, the Larned Music Club, 4–H, Girl Scouts, and was a K-State trustee, just to name a few of her activities. She played the piano and taught Bible study classes at Grace Community Church in Great Bend where the pastor said that he loved to talk with Glenn about the weather – and that’s a pretty common Kansas conversation – and that he always used the farmer’s expertise to analyze the day. The pastor said that Glenn knew exactly how much moisture we had and what was needed, and whether this was good for the wheat versus the milo and how it might affect the feed yards. The pastor continued, he said that there has been talk that Glenn behaved in a very heroic way.

I have no idea whether that is true, but I will tell you that he is the kind of guy who would absolutely have done the right thing. Glenn and Elaine’s legacies of selflessness, philanthropy, leadership, undoubtedly live on. I have met lots of people in my life, and I don’t know that I have ever met a couple with more optimism, with more care and concern for other people, with a sense that things will be better tomorrow, and that the idea that hard work and living your life in integrity and as a companion to your Creator, would mean that good things would happen for you and your family. Amy Harter, their daughter, and her family lived in a house on the Mulls’ land and worked in the family business, while she and her husband Doug raised their children, Chase and Samantha.

Sixteen-year-old Samantha, the granddaughter, was killed in that plane crash. She was described by one of her classmates at Larned High School, a student body of about three hundred, as a silly girl, but a serious enough one to be a member of the honor choir. She would have the most energy in the honor choir practice at seven in the morning. And she’d be there — tired — but with caramel rolls that her mom had made and laughing and having fun. 

Kansans know what it means to persevere, and certainly the Mull family has persevered through many difficulties. No farmer or rancher escapes that in our state. We embrace our state’s motto – “Ad astra per aspera” — “To the stars through difficulties.” And during difficult times we often see the very best in people, like Glenn’s decision to save lives in Tennessee when he couldn’t save himself or his family. And amidst the loss of Glenn and Elaine, their daughter, and granddaughter, this Kansas community is suffering, what stands out is the outpouring in Larned and Great Bend, at home in central Kansas, by the care and compassion shown by their friends and neighbors – but also by the residents of Bellevue, who were united in care and concern for this family that they never knew. Glenn, Elaine, their daughter Amy, and granddaughter, Samantha will be greatly missed, and all we can do now is model our lives after the lives they led and ask that God comfort them, their families — be a source of support for all who knew them as we go through this continued time of grief.