Lillie Anne (Yates) OwensOctober 14, 1935 ~ September 9, 2017 (age 81)
Commemoration of Life
Lillie Anne Yates Owens
Lillie Anne Yates Owens entered the world as the oldest child born to John Wilbur Yates, Jr., and Margaret Ophelia Walstean Yates, on October 14, 1935, in Kansas City, Kansas. She accepted Christ when she joined First African Methodist Episcopal Church as a young adult. She attended the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, and graduated from Sumner High School in 1953. She had a passion for dance and gymnastics; taught dancing lessons and performed for many years under the instruction of Irene McLaurian. Her first job was as a Clerk at First A.M.E. Church, under the pastorate of Rev. J. Russell Brown, when she was in high school. Following high school graduation, she attended the University of Kansas, where she focused on business, office management, and life insurance management courses.
Lillie Anne’s professional career spanned thirty-two years from 1958-1990. In 1958, she began working at Crusader Life Insurance Company as a part-time clerk. In 1969, the company merged with American Woodman’s Life Insurance Company, which was headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and she was immediately elected Corporate Secretary and Treasurer. In 1979, she became the first woman elected President and Chief Executive Officer. As President, she traveled regularly between the company’s offices in Denver and Kansas City managing a staff of forty employees, overseeing agency departments, and making multi-million-dollar investments. Under her leadership, the company expanded its assets to include real estate and other insurance advancements. In addition to her corporate responsibilities, she was often invited to speak at various civic and social engagements, and she was a member of more than fifty local, state, and national organizations, including the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the LINKS, Inc., as well as an honorary member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. In many of these organizations, she served as chairperson or in a leadership capacity. Lillie was a member of the Kansas City, Kansas Human Relations Commission, and for many years, she served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Kansas City, Kansas Branch of the NAACP. She lived her life as an excellent role model and opened the door for other executive women during a time when it was not popular or commonplace for women to travel extensively as the top executive in a male-dominated society and organization. Lillie Anne received numerous awards and recognitions that included being featured in Essence Magazine as well as in a special issue of black executive women in Ebony Magazine. It was always her goal to completely shatter the glass ceiling. However, she was skilled at balancing work and family life, and her entire family always remained her highest priority. She never missed a beat; she was a proficient multi-tasker. Following her retirement from the insurance industry, she was invited to utilize her stellar administrative skills and business acumen to support other organizations. In 1994-2008, she worked as an Administrative Assistant at First A.M.E. Church under five pastors.
She was actively involved throughout her life at First A.M.E. Church, where she faithfully served as a Steward, Sunday School Teacher, President of the Mother’s Guild, Women’s Day Chairperson, Church Anniversary Chairperson, and Women’s Day Speaker. She was gifted, strategic, organized, and a committed leader. She loved to dance; she was caring and fun-loving. Her commitment to social justice and community involvement never wavered.
On October 15, 1955, she married the love of her life, Chester “Charles” Lee Herman Owens, Jr. To this union, three daughters were born, Cynthia Marie, Karen Lenora, and Carla Anne. She also became a mother figure to six brothers, whom she loved dearly, as well as countless other young people who claimed her as “Mom.” She was elated when her only two grandchildren were born: Larry Dean and Kaleb Charles.
Lillie Anne had a deep passion for reading and crafts. She was artistic, humble, and a determined problem-solver. She remained a loyal, trusted confidante to many people.
She was preceded in death by her parents; brother, Thomas Jerome Yates, and daughter, Carla Anne Owens.
She leaves to cherish her memory: her loving husband of sixty-two years, Chester C. L.H. Owens, Jr.; her daughters, Dr. Cynthia Owens Harris (Leo); Rev. Karen L. Owens; grandsons, Larry D. Jones, II; and Kaleb Charles Jones (Alison); sister, Alice Yates Banks (Rev. Jimmie L. Banks); brother, John W. Yates, III (Faye); and a special daughter, TajSheena Ross Harrison. She had two special friends that extend back to her childhood: Dorothy R. McField and Bobbie Bailey, along with a host of other family members, nieces and nephews. She will be sorely missed on this side of Heaven, but today, the ancestors and the angels rejoice in her homecoming.
May she rest in sweet, sweet peace.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to Sickle Cell Association/Uriel Owens Chapter
P.O. Box 171371-- Kansas City, Kansas 66117