Ms. Bettylu Donaldson

October 26, 1926 ~ January 5, 2022 (age 95)


I was born on October 26, 1926, in 3rd floor apartment that was once located at 17th and highland in KCMO.  I like to think I was welcomed by my parents, Jasper,  Bennett Cespedes and Grace Williams Cespedes, he a firefighter and she a homemaker; and by a sister, Susan Cespedes, all of whom got me through the “wonder years.”

It seems that school days were over before I got a good grip on their purpose.  They were spent at W.W. Yates, R.T. Coles, Lincoln High , Lincoln University and the University of Kansas.  Along the way I met Davenport Donaldson and married him on July 28, 1946.   He was a smart, cute boy, who couldn’t dance but I decided to take my chances with him anyway.  The union marked the beginning of a family of four children, six grandchildren and eight great grands.

Squeezed into a sublimely hectic family life was a trying and satisfying career.  The latter included positions at Lincoln High School (déjà vu).  The Division of Family Services and the Jackson County Juvenile (Family) Court.  The sum total amounted to a fully packed 34 years.

During my youth I was aligned with the Catholic faith, along with my parents.  However, one of my sons-in-law was appointed pastor of the St. James United Methodist Church.  As a gesture of support, I visited the little church on Gregory Blvd. one Sunday.  It was in the early 70’s and I never looked back.  I soon became a member and the moments I have spent within those walls are among the most jubilant of my life.

Retrospectively I’ve come to understand what gives my life its smile.  It is my ever present one on one with God; and the relationships I am privileged to share with my family and my friends, who are:  Husband, Davenport Donaldson (deceased); daughters Grace James and Dianne Cleaver sons Garrett Donaldson and Bennett Donaldson; Sons-in-laws Emanuel Clever II and Ivan James III. ; Grandchildren Emanuel Cleaver III, Emiel Cleaver, Jason James, Marissa Cleaver Wamble, Quentin James and Evan Cleaver; Granddaughters -in- law Sharon Cleaver and Dani James and Grandson in law Jabari Wamble; Step grandchildren Ivan James IV, David James, and Kevin James; Great grandchildren Emanuel Cleaver IV, Isaac Cleaver, Alayna Cleaver, Sadie James, Claire James, Austin James,  Bailey Wamble and Braxton Wamble;  Niece, Suzanne Lewis and her children Jordan and Taylor; God-niece Sherilyn Simmons; Friends Deoma Dooley, Gwenden Long (deceased), Alice Meyers (deceased), Cora Mae Stiger (deceased), Elma Cole (deceased); neighbors and friends  Joyce Kynard(deceased) and Lucille McKamey (deceased).

I am humbly grateful at the thought that there may be persons present to honor me with this celebration of life.  And I am making a heartfelt request to our God that he will bless you for any kindness you extend to my family and friends.

Bettylu Donaldson’s transition from her earthly life to an everlasting one into the arms of Jesus took place on January 5, 2022, in Kansas City, Missouri where she was a proud lifelong Kansas City resident.

Mrs. Donaldson graduated from Lincoln High School at the age of 16.  She attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City for two years where she became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. then transferred to the University of Kansas where she graduated in 1946, majoring in speech-drama and education.

She taught drama from 1950 to 1952 at Lincoln High School and subsequently spent the remainder of her career working in human services. She was a Case Worker and later a Supervisor for the Missouri Department of Social Services, Division of Family Services.

In 1962 she was appointed to the position of Deputy Juvenile Officer at the Jackson County Juvenile (now Family) Court.  She served in several capacities with the Court and spearheaded a number of new programs there, including the Family Attention Centers and the Nate Lynn Halfway House.  Because of her efforts on behalf of the youth of Jackson County, a group home for adolescents, the Donaldson House, was named in her honor in 1971.  In 1977 she was appointed Assistant Director of Juvenile Court Services, a position from which she retired in 1989.  At the court she was considered a role model by many for her ”leadership, endurance and personal flair for life.”

She met Davenport Donaldson at Lincoln University.  They married in 1946 after his service in the Navy during WW II and completion of his master’s degree at the University of Kansas. They enjoyed a warm and supportive relationship in a marriage that lasted 47 years until Mr. Donaldson’s death.

Mrs. Donaldson was first and foremost a loving mother and grandmother who always put her family first in spite of a demanding professional career.  She was of strong character and continually  stood up for what she believed in. She was sweet but tough.  She was kind and gentle, but she was also fierce.  A regular admonition to her children and one of her favorite sayings was “Above all to thine own self be true.”  She was a devoted member of St. James United Methodist Church.  She regularly attended Wednesday afternoon Bible Study, enjoyed welcoming people as a Church Greeter on Sunday mornings and was active in the United Methodist Women’s Group as long as her health permitted. The Women’s Group named her Woman of the Year in 2004 and she inspired the St. James’ clothes closet for the needy, named in her honor, Bettylu’s Closet.

Mrs. Donaldson was a lover of the theater and movies and saw many films with family members and friends and would subsequently discuss/review movies and actors for hours. She was a friend and supporter of many church members and other friends, visiting the sick and shut in, calling and sending cards of encouragement, congratulations or thanks.

The Family would like to give special thanks to sons Bennett and Garrett of the home, and to the caregivers, all of whose loving care allowed her to remain at home until her death.  Particular thanks to long time caregivers Careada Tucker and Regina Jones.  She leaves to mourn, miss and hold her in loving memory all of the remaining family and friends referenced in her first-person obituary and her caregivers over the years.

Prior to her death Mrs. Donaldson requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the nonprofit Jackson County Children’s Emergency Fund, c/o Mr. John Kurtz, 1718 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO 64108.

Service will be streamed live for public viewing on the church website, Saturday, January 15, 2022, 11:00am at Worship Online – St. James -  Service conducted by Watkins Heritage Chapel. Condolences may be shared on our website.

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