August 7, 1937 – March 13, 2023
Wanda Chinnery, unanimously described by her family as “the best of everything a human can be” passed away on March 13th, 2023 in Lee’s Summit, Missouri at the age of 85.
Wanda’s kind spirit, warm heart and amazing intellect drew people to her throughout her life.
With great grandparents as the first pioneers who crossed the Sioux River to settle in Dakota, it is not surprising that Wanda was a pioneer herself as a mathematician – extremely early in tech. She was a beautiful person inside and out, kind, an excellent cook and hostess, and the very best mother and grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. Wanda saw the best in everyone, and cheered others to their utmost potential.
Wanda attended Washington High School in Sioux Falls, SD, where she was elected “Sweetheart” in 1955. She graduated summa cum laude in 1958 from Augustana College with a major in mathematics and english, achieved in only 3 years while simultaneously working at the soda fountain in the local dime store. Wanda immediately moved to Kansas City, Missouri (where she knew no one) to work in the Mathematics Department for renowned mathematician Yudell Luke at Midwest Research Institute (now MRI Global). She focused on Bessel functions, confluent hypergeometric functions, analysis of the Missouri highway system and biological warfare detection devices.
In 1972 Hallmark Cards, Inc. hired Wanda as an analyst in the Data Processing Division. She held many positions at Hallmark including Systems Development Manager, Manager of Data Processing Training, Manager of End User Technology and Director of Information Technology. She had the reputation for leading her group of nearly 300 by looking for the best each person had to offer and then inspiring them to be the best they could be together. Their teamwork was unsurpassed and the group became a family. Wanda reminisced about being one of the few early women in senior management at the company. She loved her years at Hallmark.
In the 1980’s Wanda was sought by the Reagan Administration for a key White House position in technology, but she withdrew at the last minute due to illness.
In 1999 Wanda moved to John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She was an active member of the community volunteering in the Computer Center and as a member of the John Knox Village Board, the PremierLife Board, and the John Knox Village Foundation. She repeated many of those positions multiple times and thought highly of “The Village.”
Wanda’s brilliant mind was only one aspect of this amazing woman. Wanda married William Thomas Chinnery, and their daughter Christy, born in 1963, was the joy of their lives. Wanda loved making the entire family as well as Christy’s friends feel loved and welcome at home and at “the lake.” She always cooked the best food for family gatherings, and Christy’s friends recall delicious breakfasts after sleep-overs. Wanda would often say, “I love those girls.” When she became a grandmother, she adored every minute she spent with Sommer. Wanda was known to be a frequent texter and Instagram “liker.” This included not only posts of her own friends and family, but also the posts of her grand-daughter’s closest friends. Tech loving Grammy didn’t miss a beat with the 20-somethings. She always knew what was going on in their lives and cheered them on for every success and life experience. (The girls are laughing.)
Wanda battled an autoimmune disease (GPA) valiantly for 43 years after being given 6 months to live in 1980. She is thought to be the person who has lived the longest with GPA. Wanda credits her wonderful doctors at both Mayo Clinic and in Kansas City (many of whom became close friends over the decades) for their brilliant strategies and for working together to enable her to live a full life “to see her wonderful grand-daughter graduate from college and move to New York City.” Wanda’s family and friends marvel at the constant grace and determination she modeled daily. One nephew asked how she did it. She shared that on her worst days, she did something kind for someone else. We all know she actually did that every day of her life, and that became her superpower.
Wanda is survived by her daughter and “partner in survival” Christy Howard, Christy’s husband Joe, her beloved granddaughter Sommer and Wanda’s sisters Linda Rae (Shelp) Zirelli and husband Lou, Sandra Kay (Shelp) Tsiang and husband Hwai-Kee and Juanita Faye (Shelp) Dalton and husband Barry, as well as the much-loved Chinnery family and nieces and nephews from both sides of the family. Wanda was preceded in death by her daughter, Constance Renee Chinnery and her mother and father, Elsie and Ivan.
Thanks for taking the time to read about the woman so many of us admire for being ahead of her time, strong and always kind. As an act of remembrance, consider doing something kind today.
Services at Langsford Funeral Home, Saturday, April 8th at 9:30 a.m. with a visitation beginning at 9:00 a.m. Family is encouraging that colorful attire be worn by all guests.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Mayo Clinic in Wanda’s name.
Arrangements: Langsford Funeral Home, 115 SW 3rd Street, Lee’s Summit, MO 64063 816-524-3700 https://langsfordfuneralhome.com/