Jeanne Lillig-Patterson Obituary

Service Information

 
In Memory of

Jeanne Lillig-Patterson

July 10, 1958 - September 4, 2017
Obituary

Jeanne Lillig-Patterson passed away into the arms of the Lord on Monday, September 4th, surrounded by family and friends after a decade-long battle with cancer. Her life was marked by strength, humor, and tremendous love. The daughter of Paul and Frances Lillig, Jeanne grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She liked to recall that she was "born backwards" and felt that this had some bearing on her personality, noting "I came out pretty independent." Jeanne was the third of six children and was raised as part of a large, bustling Irish Catholic family. She attended Bishop Hogan High School where she made lifelong friends and served as...
Jeanne Lillig-Patterson passed away into the arms of the Lord on Monday, September 4th, surrounded by family and friends after a decade-long battle with cancer. Her life was marked by strength, humor, and tremendous love.
The daughter of Paul and Frances Lillig, Jeanne grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She liked to recall that she was "born backwards" and felt that this had some bearing on her personality, noting "I came out pretty independent." Jeanne was the third of six children and was raised as part of a large, bustling Irish Catholic family. She attended Bishop Hogan High School where she made lifelong friends and served as homecoming queen. At Hogan, Jeanne competed in volleyball, cheerleading, track, and played second base, but her real interest was music.
Jeanne loved to sing and play piano. She continued to follow this passion to Avila University where she majored in the study of music, attending on scholarship. There, she starred in Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, and Oklahoma. She spent many of her college days waiting tables at Mario's and listening to Cat Stevens. Jeanne received the St. Catherine's Medal of Honor at Avila and graduated among the top in her class. This May, she received an honorary doctorate from the University for her philanthropic achievements.
After graduation, Jeanne began work at a young healthcare technology company. She was the seventh employee of Cerner Corporation-earning her the affectionate nickname "007." Jeanne's interview was scheduled for 8 p.m. on a Friday. At the time, the company's founders were working around the clock. Cliff Illig and Neal Patterson arrived to the meeting late and found her sitting on the steps debating whether she should stay or leave. She would stay for another 36 years.
Jeanne wore many hats at the rapidly growing company. She began as a secretary and accountant, and later served as Director of Marketing and Director of Client Services. In 1984, it was Jeanne who suggested the name "Cerner Corporation."
Neal and Jeanne fell in love while working at Cerner and married soon after in 1987. Neal described Jeanne as a multi-talented woman with "a strong bias for action." He admired Jeanne's creative energy and loved listening to her sing. The two celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary last winter-only to realize that they were one year early.
As Cerner grew, Jeanne's role shifted to focus on her true passion, philanthropy. She founded the First Hand Foundation in 1985, an organization devoted to filling the unmet healthcare needs of children who have fallen through cracks in the insurance and government aid systems. To date, First Hand has provided care for more than 300,000 children in nearly 100 countries. As director of the charity, Jeanne drove the creation of the Healthe Kids initiative, which offers free health screenings for elementary students. She was instrumental in creating First Hand's integrative wellness center at St. Sabina Church. Jeanne also worked to improve family benefits for Cerner employees, adding onsite childcare and education services to better the lives of working parents.
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Jeanne served on the boards of Ronald McDonald House, Avila University, Bishop Hogan High School, Heartland Therapeutic Riding Academy, the American Royal, Jewel Ball and BOTAR Ball. She was an active member of St. Sabina Church, where she sang in the choir. Jeanne even ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 2004.
Neal often referred to Jeanne as "the soul of Cerner." He maintained that it was her goodness that guided the company and credited her with much of Cerner's success. When Jeanne was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, healthcare work took on a new meaning for him.
Jeanne met her challenging diagnosis with strength and humor. She amazed family, friends, and doctors with her courage and resilience. Jeanne's determination was echoed by many in her family who watched her continue to defy medical expectations after her cancer returned and recurred six times more.
Jeanne gleaned wisdom from her experiences during a long and difficult course of treatment and redoubled her efforts to live and love to her fullest potential. "Death happens...we will all die...but happiness is such an amazing thing," she would say, "I hope I didn't go through all that without being appropriately changed." The happiness she created for others continues for those who live in her afterglow.
Jeanne was a people person, but she especially loved children. She related to them easily and liked to play and laugh. Anytime a child came to her house, Jeanne would make sure they left with handfuls and pocketfuls of jellybeans. Neighbors, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren loved spending time with "Kicks," as they called her. Kids swam in the pool, and Jeanne would make mac and cheese. She would, of course, eat it with them, as it was her favorite too. She would often joke about their shared culinary preferences, asking, "Is there any food for five year olds that I can eat?"
Perhaps one reason that Jeanne got along so well with children was that she possessed a sense of childlike wonderment. She liked magic and whimsy, and especially Harry Potter. In her backyard, she created a tiny fairy garden complete with houses, streets, wells, and stone arches. Jeanne loved stories and learning and marveling at things bigger than herself. She brought these qualities out in others as well, reminding them not to take themselves too seriously and never to lose their sense of imagination.
Jeanne was proud to be a mother. Her children brought her joy and purpose. She supported them unconditionally. As a parent, she tried to be strict but was never very good at it. On the way to school, the family listened to country music because she worried the other stations had swear words. She sang, read Lord of the Rings before bed, and liked planning family vacations. On one road trip to Canada, she mixed up the dates, accidently leaving early. Neal and Jeanne along with their kids spent their extra time driving around Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, and the Corn Palace.
Jeanne was devoted to her children and they, in turn, were devoted to her. As someone who loved taking care of others, Jeanne's cancer sometimes required her to accept help rather than give it. Through this process she passed on her caring spirit to her children.
Jeanne loved to surprise people. She loved surprise parties and giving gifts for no particular reason. She would often say the last thing that you expected. She surprised her doctors and family alike by defeating all estimates she was given. Up until the very end, she kept surprising people with her grace and with her kindness and her requests to be taken to get a snow cone.
Her life was filled with brightly colored things. And in turn, she gave color to everyone around her. She wore brightly colored pajamas and head-to-toe green on Saint Patrick's Day. Jeanne loved holidays and costume parties. She loved flowers and making things beautiful.
Her enthusiasm for life was contagious. We are grateful that she shared her magic with us.
Jeanne was preceded in death by her husband Neal. She is survived and will be greatly missed by her children, Cortney, Will, Clay, and Lindsey; her grandchildren, Dean, Katherine, Alex, and Georgia; her parents, Paul and Frances Lillig; her siblings, Mig, Paul, Mary Ann, Tony, and Lisa, as well as many nieces, nephews, and friends.
A rosary and tribute will be held on Thursday, September 7th at 4:30 p.m at St. Sabina Catholic Church, 700 Trevis Ave, Belton, Missouri. A visitation will follow until 8:00 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, September 8th at 10:30 a.m. with a private burial service to follow. Those who wish to share in the joy she created may make a donation to the First Hand Foundation, Little Sisters of the Poor, American Royal, The Carol J. Fabian Leadership and Legacy Fund, and Avila University. Assistance by Funeral Advocates, LLC. Online condolences may be left at www.mcgilleystatelinechapel.com.

Share your memories or express your condolences by signing the Guest Book below or click here for entry suggestions.

"Dear Lillig and Patterson families: No words of man can convey the heartfelt sorrow I had when learning about Jeanne's passing to become an angel in..." Jim Thomas (Overland Park, KS)

Submit Guest Book Entry
This Guest Book has 33 entries. View Complete Guest Book

More Obituaries

Kansas City Star
JEANNE LILLIG-PATTERSON Jeanne Lillig-Patterson passed away into the arms of the Lord on Sunday, September 4, 2017, surrounded by family and...

Read obituary at Kansas City Star.

Personalize Your Tribute

Share photos, videos and more with Legacy Memorial Websites. Find out more.

 
Start Planning Today

Make Your Plan Today

Preplanning your funeral or cemetery arrangements gives you and your loved ones peace of mind. Don't wait. Make your plan online today.
Plan Online Now

Audio Condolences

Use your phone to dial in a free personalized message. Click here to make an entry or listen to recordings from friends and family.