Patricia Pierce Kells of Lawrence, Kansas, passed away peacefully on February 5, 2023, at the age of 83.
Pat was best known for her quick-witted humor, love of her family, passion for travel, and lifetime dedication to education and community service.
Pat is survived by three children, Tara Edwards Keltner (Steve) of Pettigrew, Arkansas; Kassie Edwards Nieters (Larry) of Lawrence, Kansas, and Allan Kells (Jill) of Parkville, Missouri; her brother, Glenn Pierce (Gunilla) of Olathe, Kansas; and six grandchildren, Sarah Edwards, Kyle Edwards, Molly Keltner, Tatum Kells, Ava Kells, and Sloane Kells. She was preceded in death by her son, Brad Edwards.
The youngest of two children, Pat was born December 8, 1939, in Denver, Colorado, to Mildred Pierce and Glenn Q. Pierce. The family moved to Kansas and lived in Olathe and Prairie Village until Pat was in high school. They then moved to Lawrence where Mildred opened Ober’s Junior Miss clothing store. Pat enjoyed modeling for the store and her love for fashion continued throughout her life.
Pat married Frank Edwards in 1959 and they had three children, Tara, Brad, and Kassie. She later married Al Kells (deceased), and had one child, Allan.
Pat graduated from University of Kansas with a Bachelors Degree in Education in 1967 and a Masters Degree in Special Education Administration in 1975. Pat was a member of Delta Gamma sorority, where she met several life-long friends. She also became an avid Kansas basketball fan.
Pat had a distinguished career in education and community service. She loved her work and the people with whom she worked. The first part of her career was spent in the Lawrence public school district, where she served as a teacher and administrator and was credited with making groundbreaking changes to the way special education students were integrated into the school. This work had an extremely positive impact on these students and their families, who continued to seek her out decades later to thank her.
Pat then spent time in higher education as faculty for both undergraduate and graduate level courses, as university-wide coordinator of grants at Emporia State University and as the Associate Director for the Center for Educational Research and Service. She served as a Special Education Program Consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education and chaired two task forces for the U.S. Department of Education. Pat also authored numerous publications and research papers and taught a course in London on comparative British and American special education.
In 1991, a second career was launched when Pat was asked by the Kansas State Department of Education and Governor Joan Finney to develop a plan to be submitted for funding by the National and Community Service Act of 1990. This started a two-decade period where she passionately advocated for community service and built programs that became models for national and international programs.
She served as the Executive Director of both the Kansas Volunteer Commission and the Kansas Office for Community Service, was a founder of the Community Service Foundation, and worked closely with three Kansas Governors as well as state, local, and national agencies to grow volunteerism in Kansas.
Pat later led an initiative for Governor Finney to develop a volunteer program for Kansas State Retirees and worked with Governors Bill Graves and Kathleen Sebelius on programs that involved reforming welfare and supporting military families through volunteerism.
Pat also played key roles with multiple national organizations, including The Commission on National and Community Service, the Points of Light Foundation, the National Association of State Offices of Volunteerism, Grantmakers Forum, the National Association of Conservation Corps, and Youth Volunteer Corps of America and Canada. She also had the honor to serve alongside President George Bush and Adele Hall on the Points of Light Foundation Board.
In addition to serving on volunteer foundations, Pat directly volunteered for Junior League, school-based service learning programs for the disabled, mentoring teenage youth, and working with county and state mental health programs.
Pat loved to travel and cherished her time at Hotel Boca Chica in Acapulco, where she was a regular and a favorite of the owner and staff. Pat never knew a stranger, told great jokes, and loved to laugh.
Pat’s passion for work, travel, and volunteerism was only surpassed by the pride she took in her family. She loved to brag about her children and grandchildren—and her family is equally proud of her.
She will be dearly missed by her family and friends.
A visitation will be held to celebrate Pat’s life on Saturday, February 11, 2023, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home , 601 Indiana St. Lawrence, KS 66044.
A private inurnment will take place at Memorial Park Cemetery, Lawrence.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests volunteering or contributing to your favorite community service organization in Pat’s memory.