Laura Lee Jones (59) returned home to the Lord on June 27, 2019. She faced the fight of her life with grace and courage. Her unwavering faith in God when she encountered her fourth bout of cancer was an inspiration to everyone who knew her.
She was born on April 2, 1960 in Kansas City, Missouri to Bonnie and Bruce Jones. At exactly eight months she underwent surgery to remove a kidney as a result of a discovered Wilms tumor. The extensive radiation treatments that followed had a significant impact on the rest of her life. Growing up with the knowledge that having children of her own was unlikely, she opened her heart to hundreds of other children - loving, nurturing, protecting, guiding and instructing them in various capacities throughout her lifetime.
She graduated from Shawnee Mission South High School in 1978 and continued her education at Kansas University where she majored in Social Welfare. Her education prepared her for an established career working with children of all ages.
As a Youth Care Worker, Laura provided guidance and encouragement to adolescents at three different group homes and later at a psychiatric hospital where she dealt with teenagers who had experienced abuse. Her desire to return to day shift hours led her to a fulfilling position as a nanny for three young girls. The love she felt for them was evident and she found immense happiness during her eight years in this role. Throughout this time she was also responsible for the care of infants and toddlers in a church nursery on Sunday mornings, a position she held for almost two decades and which led to countless babysitting jobs from parents who were elated to access her inherent capabilities. At her own church she was a youth group leader (with her mother and sister) for Lutheran Girl Pioneers, teaching life skills to girls aged kindergarten to eighth grade.
Most recently, she was employed as a para-professional at Brookwood Elementary School. In this capacity, Laura’s flair for connecting with children was fully revealed. She developed extraordinary relationships with staff, students and parents. She had a unique gift interacting with the children in her care – portraying a patient and loving demeanor with ‘just a little bit’ of authority. The school recently recognized Laura’s contribution by devoting a lovely reading nook in the library. The window seat is filled with colorful pillows and several of her favorite books. On the wall is a dedication plaque with her name and artwork of some of her favorite characters. Visiting the school to see the library was a joyous day for Laura. She felt such happiness as the Principal and staff greeted her. She was overwhelmed with appreciation that she had been recognized for what came naturally to her – being Laura.
Laura was a voracious reader, impressively completing 150 books during a year that she was employed full-time and part-time. Her other hobbies included working jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles and word games. She was unbeatable in Backgammon and a bit of a card shark. She loved listening to many types of music and immensely enjoyed dancing. Surprising to many, Laura could watch late night horror movies by herself, then walk through a dark house with no trepidation. One of her favorite holidays was Halloween and she was thrilled when she won first place for the elaborate mummy costume she wore one year. Laura loved attending concerts, plays and sporting events. She enjoyed watching the Chiefs, but her favorite team was the Kansas City Royals. She became an avid fan while in her teens. She followed the games faithfully and had many of the player’s stats memorized.
The most important part of Laura’s life was the time she spent with her family. She treasured the fun, laughter and chaos that were present at every family gathering. To the delight of all, Laura had a wonderful sense of humor and would often encourage comedic bantering with her brothers. During family gatherings she would frequently sing or dance, sometimes in front of the camcorder. She adored her family, hugging and kissing them whenever possible. Losing this interaction with her family for two years while she was in isolation brought her tremendous sadness. She knew it was necessary to protect her underdeveloped immune system, so she forged through, hopeful the outcome would be restored health.
When she found out the doctors were out of treatment options, it was very important to her to leave the hospital as soon as possible and return home to recoup a fraction of the family time she had lost. Four days before she passed, she positioned everyone around her hospice bed and proceeded to part with her beloved belongings, assigning special items to each member of the family. She was joyful during this gathering, relaying the significance of each cherished item as she held it, then handing it over like she was passing out presents on Christmas morning. Despite others’ tears, she remained focused, occasionally smiling while she gifted the material possessions of her life.
Laura was deeply appreciative for the beautiful testament of love she received from her mother and also from her Aunt Kathy who devoted endless hours caring for her during the last three years of her life. The lengthy medical appointments and numerous hospital stays were made better by time they spent together playing games, reading aloud or telling stories (which ultimately resulted in frequent bouts of laughter). She was also very grateful to her Uncle Bob for his willingness to come to the rescue and provide whatever was necessary to solve any problem. His thoughtfulness and generosity comforted her many times. Additionally, she felt blessed to have friends and family that reached out to her, uplifting her with their presence and surrounding her with love and encouragement.
While Laura was in the hospital during the last month of her life, she was given an adult coloring book of llamas by her sister-in-law, Missy. This book provided Laura an escape and a focus. It also started a phenomenon. Laura was coloring a page when a doctor came in to her room during rounds. Spotting Laura’s page, she eagerly showed Laura her llama necklace. Laura asked her if she would like a colored llama page. The doctor said she would. Other healthcare workers heard about the llama picture and came in to see Laura’s book. She asked each of them if they wanted a colored llama picture. They all did. Then one day someone brought her a sloth coloring book. The word spread and now sloth pictures were being requested as well. Soon Laura had over twenty-five pages to color. This was after she had already distributed at least a dozen. She became affectionately known as “The Llama Lady” and that is how she signed each picture after she had written a note of appreciation on the back. This was classic Laura, graciously thanking the hospital workers who made her last days in the hospital comfortable.
The remarkable traits of our sweet Laura could not be adequately acknowledged within the pages of a book, much less a page or two. The strength she possessed to survive three different types of cancer during her life was extraordinary; the character she showed remaining positive, loving, sweet, generous and appreciative while staring death in the face was nothing short of heroic.
Laura’s surviving family members include her mother, Bonnie Jones; siblings - Lisa Endriss (Chris), Bruce H. Jones, Jr. (Missy), Jason Bradley Jones (Alisa); sister-in-law Jossy Jones; nieces and nephews - Brandon Richard (Evelyn), Rachal Collins, Geoffrey Jones, Jr., Christopher Jones, Grace Jones, Lainey Jones, Bradley Jones, Jr., Alison Jones; great-nieces and great-nephews – Brandon Richard, Jr., Alex Collins, Sofia Richard and Avery Jones. Laura also leaves behind many loving aunts, uncles, cousins and numerous devoted long-time friends including Doug McDonald who became an honorary Jones many years ago. There will be a permanent void left in the hearts of all who loved Laura.
Now that she is with her Savior, Laura joins her brother Brian and her father, grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins and friends who left this earth too soon. Many adoring pets were deeply loved by Laura and the belief that she would be reunited with them and also her loved ones gave her comfort in her final days.
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