Laroy Mcclellan Penwell was born at Buchanan, Michigan, November 25, 1862. He was one of seven children of Eli W. and Mary L. (Rouse) Penwell.
Eli Penwell was born at Elkhart, Indiana. He went with his parents to Michigan when a small boy, and spent most of his life in that state in the lumber business. He died in Kansas in 1886. His wife, Mary L., died in Kansas in 1889.
The subject of this sketch, L. M. Penwell, as he is known, received his education in the rural schools in Michigan, and came to Kansas with his parents when he was but thirteen years of age. At the age of eighteen years, he entered the employ of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company, and continued with that company until April 1894, when he launched his present business, that of funeral director. His present business establishment occupies a space of seventy-five feet frontage, is 150 feet deep, three stories high, and is located at 506-508-510 Quincy Street, Topeka, Kansas.
There is no one in the West who has the reputation for more perfect service, and a better and more broadly extended reputation as funeral director and embalmer than has L. M. Penwell. He was one of the organizers of the Kansas Funeral Directors Association, and was its secretary for eighteen years. He has been a member of the National Funeral Directors Association for 20 years, and served as its president in 1905 and 1906. He was one of the men who drafted and secured the passage by the Kansas Legislature of the present laws governing embalmers and funeral directors. He has put his entire energy in making his business establishment one of the most complete in America.
Colonel Penwell has never sought political honors, but at the solicitation of his friends, in 1909, he made the campaign and was elected to the lower house of the Kansas Legislature. He served one term, and declined re-election. In politics he is a democrat. At the election of Governor Hodges in 1912, he was appointed on the governor’s military staff, with the rank of colonel, and was reappointed to the same position by Governor Capper in 1914.
Colonel Penwell takes a keen interest in the business affairs of the city and state. He is a director in the Vermont Granite Company, a director in the Shawnee Building and Loan Association of Topeka, and is president of the Kansas State Fair Association of Topeka. He is a director and life member of the Kansas State Historical Society, and is a member of the Topeka Club, the Topeka Country Club, the Lake View Hunting and Fishing Club.
Among fraternalists they call Colonel Penwell a joiner. He belongs to all the bodies of Masons, including the Blue Lodge, the Chapter, the Commandery, the Consistory, the Red Cross of Constantine, and the Shrine. He is a Past Master in nearly all of these orders, including the Shrine of which he is a past potentate; is an honorary Thirty-third Degree Scottish Rite Mason; a past exalted ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and a member of their Grand Lodge. He belongs to all branches of the Odd Fellows Order, and at this writing is serving as grand master of the state. He is also a member of many of the other orders, including the Eagles, the Moose, Modern Woodmen of America, Woodmen of the World, Knights and Ladies of Security, Royal Arcanum, the Ancient Order of the United Workmen, and Knights of Pythias, and he is a member of all their grand bodies.
Colonel Penwell was married in August, 1888, to Miss Mary H. E. Maston, of Mount Hope, in Sedgwick County, Kansas. She died April 4, 1912, at Topeka, Kansas. He has one daughter, Portia W. who is Mrs. John C. Stapel of Rock Port, Missouri. Mr. Stapel is editor and proprietor of the Atchison County Mail.
Colonel Penwell’s home is in Topeka, where he enjoys the distinction of being one of its leading citizens. He has gone through all the hardships and privations that a great many of the early settlers of Kansas experienced.
Colonel Penwell takes an active interest in everything that will benefit his city. He has made no attempt to be other than a common citizen, doing his level best to take his place among men, and to build up the city and state in which he lives. He expects to make Topeka his home until he dies, and is always ready to spend his time and money and ability for anything that will help Topeka or its citizens, and he would rather have his friends than all the money in the world.