M. Jill Ladas, 73, Blue Springs, Missouri, passed away on Saturday December 24, 2016 at Kansas City Hospice House. She had fiercely and courageously battled ovarian cancer for three years.
Jill was born May 16, 1943 in Indio, California, daughter of William Ray Gromer and Beulah Ruth Gromer (Blankenship) and lived briefly in Cathedral City, California while her father prepared to deploy to Europe with the United States Army 4th Armored Division. After deployment, Jill, along with her mother and brother James Gromer lived briefly in Des Moines, Iowa before returning to Missouri where they settled in St. Joseph awaiting her father's return from World War II. In 1950, her father passed away when Jill was seven years old. Her mother was later married to her step-father, Vern Meade. Jill was Vern's "Princess" the rest of his life and he was her "Pop".
Jill attended St. Joseph, Missouri schools, including Central High School through her sophomore year before the family moved to Alma, Nebraska where her stepfather had become the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Harlan County Reservoir. Jill attended Alma High School for her junior and senior years, graduating in 1961 as Salutatorian.
Jill returned to Missouri after graduation and enrolled at Southwest Missouri State College (Missouri State). She had met Samuel Stith that summer while at the Lake of the Ozarks. Sam was also attending Southwest Missouri State and they were married in Hermitage, Missouri on March 3, 1962. Jill decided to not continue with college at that time, instead choosing to become a mother. Two sons were born to this union, Jeffrey Todd in 1964 and Marc Aaron in 1969. The family moved to California, Missouri in 1967. Jill worked in advertising, first for the California Democrat newspaper and then the Weekly Shopper in Jefferson City.
While in California, Jill was divorced and later, on January 7, 1977, remarried D.J. Davis who would become father to Jeff and Marc. In 1979, the family relocated to Odessa, Missouri where D.J. Was hired as high school principal. During this time in Odessa, Jill decided to return to school to pursue her college degree. She enrolled at Blue Springs Campus of Longview College (later Blue River Community College), earning an Associate's Degree in 1987. While still a student at the campus in 1986, she was hired part-time with the public relations department at Blue Springs Campus. She then enrolled at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in public relations/journalism and speech in 1991.
After graduation, Jill went to work full time in 1993 at Longview Community College in Lee's Summit, Missouri as Continuing Education Coordinator. Having earlier divorced, she married John Ladas on May 2, 1998 in Independence, Missouri. In 2001, she became Community Outreach Manager at the Longview campus. She retired from Metropolitan Community Colleges in 2012 to pursue her loves - traveling domestically and abroad with husband John, loving on her granddaughter Taylor, working around home with her beloved dog Shiloh by her side and cheering on her Royals and Chiefs. Fate was not so kind when in January, 2014, Jill received her diagnosis. From the beginning, she was determined to defeat it and she gave the fight everything she had to the very end. Jill was preceded in death by her father, mother, step-father, and brother.
Jill's life was highlighted by many remarkable accomplishments and experiences. She was a spelling bee champion, an award-winning accordion player, a published poet and a beauty contest queen. She had the opportunity to travel to England, France, Italy, Scotland, Germany and Greece as well as seeing firsthand the beauty of America, traveling to all corners of our nation, including Hawaii. She loved to hike with husband John and together, they learned ballroom dancing. She was a member of Royal Neighbors of America and Beta Sigma Phi. Professionally, she was recognized and honored in her position at Longview and leaves a lasting impression on the Lee's Summit community with the Longview "Flights of Fancy" Kite Festival which she was instrumental in founding in 2007. The festival, held each year in April, benefits the students of Longview through three scholarships funded by Kite Festival proceeds. It is attended by more than 15,000 residents of the metro Kansas City area each year. She received great joy in watching her son Marc act in many plays over the years and her son Jeff coach her granddaughter Taylor in fast pitch softball. Her greatest joy was being a mother and being a grandmother to Taylor, Elena, Rowden and unfortunately only briefly to Tabor.
Jill is survived by husband John Ladas of the home and her dog Shiloh; two sons Jeff Stith (wife Tammy Stith), Pleasant Hill, MO and Marc Stith (wife Jenni Stith), Castle Rock, CO; step-children Paul Ladas (wife Debbie Ladas), Drexel, MO; Michelle Ladas, Lee's Summit, MO and Kristina Lobb (husband Randall Lobb), Tonganoxie, KS; close friend D.J. Davis, Maitland, MO and grandchildren Taylor Stith and Rowden, Elena and Tabor Lobb. She is also survived by her "Soul Sister" Georgia Schmittling, Lee's Summit, MO and a multitude of friends, associates and neighbors who will miss her greatly.
A celebration of Jill's life will take place on Saturday January 14, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. at Longview Funeral Home, 12700 S. Raytown Road, Kansas City, MO with a catered lunch to follow. The family will receive visitors at the funeral home on Friday January 13 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Cremation has been accorded. Interment will be at the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville, MO at 10:00 AM on Tuesday January 17, 2017.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the following organizations: Vicki Welsh Fund for Ovarian Cancer (www.vickiwelshfund.org), the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance (www.ocrfa.org) or the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (www.whyteal.org).