Abel Baxton Sykes, Jr.June 1, 1934 ~ December 19, 2012 (age 78)
Visitation will be held on Saturday, December 29, 2012 from 9-11:00 A.M. at Stranger's Rest Baptist Church, 2052 North 5 Street, Kansas City, Kansas
Religious Service will follow at 11:00 A.M. at the Church
Interment: Highland Park Cemetery, Kansas City, Kansas
Abel Baxton Sykes, Jr. was born to Abel Baxton Sykes, Sr., and Grace Gladys Buchanan on June 1, 1934, in Kansas City, Kansas. He attended Dunbar Elementary School, Northeast Junior High School and graduated from Sumner High School in 1952. Honing his leadership skills at an early age, he proudly led the high school band as drum major and was chosen to teach band and orchestra for six weeks as a teenager when the teacher was absent. The Sykes family faithfully attended Walnut Boulevard Baptist Church in Kansas City under the leadership of the late Reverend Eugene Smith, Sr.
He served the next four years in the United States Air Force where he played the saxophone in the band and was drum major. Although he knew of her from having attended the same schools, he and Sylvia Mae Thierry began dating in1956 and were married the next year when Sylvia was still in nursing school. Abel obtained his Bachelor and Master of Arts in history and government from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He later received his Doctorate of Education from the University of California at Los Angeles and a Fulbright scholarship at Harvard University in business. A year after marrying, he and Sylvia and daughter Dawn Carol moved to San Diego, California, where he taught at O’Farrell Junior High School. A teaching position at San Diego’s Grossmont College followed. Daughters Daphne Grace and Leslie Ann completed the family.
Abel was an integral part of the girls’ upbringing. He taught his daughters how to drive a stick-shift car, ride horses, play poker and chess, archery, basketball and job skills. Abel then accepted a position as Dean of Students at Compton Community College. He ultimately served nearly two decades as President there. The family lived a stone’s throw from the school, so Abel would frequently entertain staff and guests at home. Consequently, the girls were afforded the opportunity to meet such notables as Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, United States Treasurer Azie Taylor Morton, Dick Gregory, Maya Angelou, cartoonist Bill Hanna and many others, right in their home. After a five-year stint as President of Kings River Community College (in California‘s Central Valley), he and Sylvia moved to Haslett, Michigan, where he was President of Lansing Community College. There, Abel continued the leadership of the nine-month, exchange curricula in Japan, consulting with other Asian countries as well as with other educators in European countries on the community college system. Some years later, Compton College named the Early Childhood Development building, and Lansing Community College named its Technology building, after him.
Abel was liked by many people. He moved amongst all types – from the provincial to the most sophisticated –with grace and ease. Nearing retirement, Abel would exclaim that his job was getting in the way of his hobbies, which were many and diverse. He was most passionate about photography, particularly the black and white format. He maintained a dark room for many years and enjoyed countless hours developing his images there. He also took numerous photography trips “into the wild” and the family exhaled every time he returned. Always interested in aviation, he became a pilot and flew his own Cessna airplane up and down the California coast. When he and Sylvia moved to Michigan, he took sailing lessons and they sailed Lake Muskegon. He has always enjoyed a good game of golf with his younger brother Don. He loved jazz, exotic foods and great wine with a penchant for red. He made his own yogurt and even made his own wine for many years, bottling and labeling it himself. As the girls were growing up, he bought two horses, Bandita and Flash, boarding the horses in the nearby Richland Farms area of Compton. He took many a ride with Daphne and Leslie on horseback. He was enthusiastic and disciplined in his health care and had memorable culinary skills. He possessed confidence in all things he did, even if he had no previous experience. Abel was initiated into the Alpha Pi Member Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity in 1965, chartered in this year in San Diego, California. He also served as President of the American Community and Junior Colleges Association.
Words cannot capture and convey the depth, breadth and impact of Abel Baxton Sykes, Jr. upon others in this life. He leaves to mourn a devoted wife of 55 years, Sylvia; daughters, Dawn S. Williams, Daphne S. Scott and Leslie S. Spann; sons-in-law, Kevin L. Williams, Patrick W. Spann, Sr. and Adam V. Scott; grandsons, Kevin Scott Williams, Patrick Warren Spann, Jr. and Adam Vincent Scott, Jr.; granddaughter, Kendall Dawn S. Williams; brother, Don Carlos and sister-in-law, Eunice Lawyer Sykes; nieces, Donna Gail Sykes and Kimberly Lynn Sykes; nephew, Don Jr.; grandnephew, Marc Anthony and many, many other family members and friends.