Editor’s note: This feature is part of a weekly focus from The Star meant to highlight and remember the lives of Black Kansas Citians who have died.
Reaner Shannon, an educator, author and philanthropist, was laid to rest on Thursday. The service was filled with not only family and friends, but also the many people whose lives were touched by the work of this former UMKC associate dean.
For the people who knew her, Shannon was the embodiment of grace and dignity within any situation.
“She was such a gracious woman and so involved with the med school at UMKC and the community,” says Martha Cockerell, executive director of the Raytown Educational Foundation. Cockerell served alongside Shannon on the foundation’s board of trustees since 1999 and will always remember the presence and respect Shannon commanded. “She was a soft-spoken yet strategic thinker, and when she spoke people listened to what she had to say.”
Shannon, a Kansas City native who graduated from Lincoln High School in 1955, died July 13 at the age of 85 due to health complications.
Shannon’s life was decorated with accolades, appointments and awards showing her perpetual commitment to service within her community. She was appointed to the Raytown foundation, a nonprofit that works to support schools there. In addition, she sat on the board of directors for the Black Health Care Coalition and the Edgar Snow Foundation. Her love of education was also widely directed toward the University of Missouri-Kansas City medical school, where she earned her doctorate and sat as the chair for the board of minority recruitment and retention, as well as the school’s Diversity Council until she retired in 2008.
She started her career as a medical technologist at Kansas City General Hospital and eventually became an associate professor in UMKC’s School of Medical Technology and later associate dean.
Colleague and close friend Sally Frederick, who has known Shannon since the 1970s, will always remember the drive Shannon displayed in assisting the next generation of Black doctors.
“The passion I saw in her was always toward education. She worked very hard to get her own education. She paid her own way through school, and she knew the value of education,” says Frederick, who was also a Raytown foundation trustee. However, even after years of friendship, Frederick was unaware until Shannon’s death the extent of her work within multiple facets of the Black community.
“She was so humble. I was completely overwhelmed by all the awards, all the papers she had published, by her education and the roles she played at the hospital. She was a passionate woman but reserved and dignified,” she says.
While a large number of people mourn the loss of a pillar in the Black medical and educational community, Frederick feels the loss of one of her oldest friends.
“I will miss her as a friend and mentor. I will miss her humble presence at our board meetings. She was a good listener and conversationalist who always seemed to want to hear your story.”
For daughter Pamela Shannon, 59, the sudden loss is still processing.
“We are all still recovering from the shock. We are hanging in there. I will miss the friendship the most. I not only lost my mother I lost my best friend. We talked every day and sometimes two or three times a day. But her legacy and example live inside of me,” she says. She moved from KC to Dallas 22 years ago and returned to plan the funeral service for her mother. There, she was able to see another side of the life of the woman she loved and respected so much.
“It was a beautiful service. It was a celebration of life highlighting the accomplishments and achievements she had made around Kansas City. The people she touched and impacted will definitely have a ‘pay it forward’ outlook. That need to pass on the help, guidance, and wisdom that she gave them,” she says.
Her daughter finds solace in the legacy that Shannon has left behind and the impact she made in the lives of so many Black health care professionals in Kansas City. Over decades, Shannon constantly strove to bring awareness to the health disparities of people of color. Her daughter says that she will also continue to carry on her mother’s work in her own way and fight for the improvement of the quality of life within the Black community.
“I told someone at the service that my mom left her fingerprints all over Kansas City. They told me she absolutely did but she also left a few fist prints because she had to fight for so many within Black health care and her community.”
In addition to her daughter, Shannon is survived by husband, Henry Shannon; siblings Millie Grace Morris, Christine Pouncil, Macy Miller, Gladys Burtin, Ester Jackson, and Billie Gunnels; along with a host of cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
Ivery Jean Qualls
Ivery Jean Qualls, an educator, died on July 5. She was 71.
Qualls was born on Dec. 15, 1950, to Heressie Singleton and Ivery L. Qualls in Minden, Louisiana. Known to those around her as “Berry” or “Jean,” Qualls was remembered by family and friends as a kind, giving and warm-hearted individual. She would spend much of her early life involved with the church and singing in the choir, an aspect that would follow her into adulthood with her studies in theology.
She had a passion for football, basketball, and marble shooting. She was one of the first Black women to enroll at Minden High School in the fall of 1966, aiding in the school’s integration. She would gain her high school diploma in 1968. Growing up in the South during the civil rights movement led her into activism throughout her life. Qualls would participate in numerous civil rights marches, protests and events during her youth in her community.
She relocated to Kansas City in 1978. In addition to her own children, Qualls would act as a foster parent and surrogate mother to many children who came to her. According to loved ones, she always welcomed people into her home as well as her heart .
Qualls would go on to be an active member of Miracle Temple Christian Center Church for over 50 years. In addition to her work in the church choir she also founded the ministries youth choir and held positions as an announcer and Sunday school teacher.
She earned an associate degree in biblical studies in 2002 before going on to obtain bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in Christian education.
She is survived by children LaTonnaya Qualls-Martin, Juanomanski Qualls, Lashonda Qualls and Donnell Johnson; two sisters, Fannie Gaskins and Annie-Faye Thomas; two brothers, Larry Singleton and Ivery Joe Qualls; and a host of grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces , nephews, other relatives, and friends.
Brenda Davis, a mother as well as a supervisor at Marriott, died July 11 at the age of 54.
Davis was born in Kansas City on May 24, 1968, to Kelly Roy Richard Sr., and Willie Mae Wynn-Bozeman. After graduating from Southeast High School in 1986, she studied criminal justice at Penn Valley Community College for two years. Davis would go on to start a career working at a juvenile detention center helping troubled youth in the KC metro.
She relocated to Mabelvale, Arkansas, for 10 years and returned to Kansas City in 2010 and started her career at Marriott.
She will be remembered by friends as an active person who enjoyed sports, fishing, singing, dancing and traveling. Most of all, Davis loved to be around her family and loved ones.
Davis is survived by her daughters, Janita Ammons and Brittany Davis; siblings Doris Abdallah, Sharon Bozeman-Brown, Thomas Bozeman, Sonita Stacker, Kelly Richard Jr., Jefferey Richard; sister-in-law Juanita Bozeman; 10 grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews; partner Robert Principal Jr.; and many lifelong friends.