Yvonne Delores Starks Wilson, 90, a long-time educator and retired Missouri state senator, peacefully passed away Monday, October 14, 2019 at her home in Kansas City, Mo.
Yvonne was born March 22, 1929, in the historic Kansas City, Mo. Leeds community home of her maternal grandparents, Roy and Millie Ann Gibson, to Chester Ricardo and Virginia D. (née Ruff) who preceded her in death. Her husband of 61 years, James B. “Jim” Wilson”; two brothers, Chester “Sonny” Starks and Edward M. Starks; a sister, Virginia Gene Franklin; her son, James E. Wilson; and a granddaughter, Maphelle Kenyá Chamberlain, also preceded her.
Raised by her grandparents in Leeds, Yvonne was a product of the Kansas City Missouri Public School system where she attended Dunbar Elementary, R.T Coles Jr., and Lincoln High schools. A 1946 graduate of Lincoln High, Yvonne completed her studies in higher education, receiving a BA in Elementary Education, minoring in Physical Education from Lincoln University (Missouri). She received a Master of Arts Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1971 and an Education Specialist degree in School Administration in 1976. Lincoln University recognized her dedication to education with an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities in 1991.
Yvonne spent 35 years with the Kansas City Missouri School District as a teacher, consultant, and principal, retiring as Director of Elementary Education. She was the first African-American President of the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals, Director of the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, and President of Spirit of Freedom Fountain Foundation as well as serving on the Board of Curators of Lincoln University.
Yvonne was elected to the Missouri Senate in 2004 after serving five years in the Missouri House of Representatives. She served on a number of significant committees, including the Senate Appropriations Committee; the Senate Education Committee; the Senate Seniors, Families & Public Health Committee; the Joint Committee on Economic Development Policy & Planning; the Joint Committee on Education; the Missouri Emancipation Day Commission; the Missouri Health Facilities Review Commission; and the Second State Capitol Commission. After 11 years in the Missouri General Assembly, Yvonne resigned her seat in December of 2010 to care for her ailing husband.
Yvonne was a member of many county, city, state, and national committees and organizations that focused on matters of children, families, housing, education, and public safety, including the Executive Committee of the Missouri State Democratic Committee; Missouri Legislative Women’s Caucus; Missouri Legislative Black Caucus; Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Foundation; Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL); Jackson County 16th Ward Committeewoman; National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBSCL); and National Organization of Black Elected Women (Legislators) (NOBEL). Through her involvement with NBSCL, she co-authored the committee’s nationally published “Closing the Achievement Gap; Improving Education Outcomes for African American Children”.
Yvonne was always deeply involved with the betterment of her community, and memberships included: President of the Spirit of Freedom Fountain Foundation, Inc.; Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center & Museum Foundation; City of Fountains Board of Directors (Kansas City); Mid-America Regional Council Early Learning Board; Kansas City Sister Cities Association; Swope Community Builders; the Metropolitan Crime Commission; NAACP; Sheraton Estates Neighborhood Association; Lincoln University Alumni Association; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; The Greater Kansas City (MO) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated.; and the St. Louis Catholic Church.
Tireless work earned Yvonne numerous awards and recognition over the years. While each was special and close to her heart, some of her most cherished accolades included her recent induction into the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s STARR Women’s Hall of Fame, the Friends of Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center Living Legacy Award, the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association’s Public Official Achievement Award, and an honor by the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department with the naming of a 17-acre park in the Leeds neighborhood where she was born and raised. The Yvonne Starks Wilson Park is the first Kansas City park named after an African American woman. Yvonne is also recognized on the “Phoenix Rising Out of the Ashes” sculpture created by artist Ed Dwight at the Linwood Shopping Center.
Those who knew Yvonne admired her fierce loyalty, tenacity, and passionate approach to every endeavor. She was always a few steps ahead of her time. Her inquisitive nature about other cultures took her to Russia, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, England, France, Tanzania, China, and most recently to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where she gained knowledge and insight into world issues. Yvonne loved to read (as evidenced by her vast and varied home library), to shop (as the story her bulging closets would tell), and to learn all the newest technological gadgetry. She adored, supported, and had great love for her husband, children, and grandchildren, and she shared many lifetime stories with them and others. In September 2019, her memoirs, “Living Off Grandma’s Sayings – From Leeds to the Legislature”, were published to share those stories with the world.
Yvonne is survived by two daughters, Berishia Wilson-Chamberlain (Minneapolis, Mn.); Alycia Nichols (Ramon), (Lee's Summit, Mo.); a sister, Vivienne Smith, (Kansas City, Mo.); three granddaughters (Yvonne Chamberlain, Ebony Johnson, and Jamie Wilson); two grandsons (James Johnston and Justin Chamberlain-Dupree); and five great-grandchildren. A host of loving nieces, nephews, and other loving relatives and friends will also sadly miss her.
The Deltas Sorority will host a tribute to honor the memory of Yvonne Wilson at 9:00 a.m. - One hour before the visitation period. Also, the LINKS Inc. will pay tribute to the memory of this pioneer.
Visitation 10 a.m. – 12 noon, Friday, October 25, 2019 at Watkins Heritage Chapel, 4000 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd, Kansas City, Mo. Funeral service to immediately follow. Entombment at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 7601 Blue Ridge Blvd. followed by a reception at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, 3700 Blue Parkway. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to the Yvonne Starks Wilson Park Foundation, c/o Alycia (Wilson) Nichols, 4545 East 53rd Street, Kansas City, Mo., 64130.
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