Editor’s note: Jim Nunnelly is a former Health Forward board member and an active and passionate member in our community. On his personal Facebook page, he honored Black History Month by featuring vignettes of senior citizens living in Kansas City. We are honored to share a recap of his tribute here on our blog.
Each year, we celebrate Black History Month as an opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans throughout history.
We must continue to build upon this past, recognize the present, and meticulously plan for an effective future. So this February was a great opportunity for me to feature seniors in our community who are working to live their healthiest and best lives.
Below are some of the exceptional Kansas Citians that I have the great honor to feature here.
Maxine worked in the KC garment district for 43 years. At 92-years-old, she is a bowler and an athlete. Maxine vividly remembers when blacks could not bowl anywhere, except black-owned alleys like Monarch Bowl, near 19th and Vine. She’ll also tell you about how women weren’t allowed to bowl at all.
Ollie and Sandra Hubbard
Ollie weighed 338 pounds before he pledged to lose weight during a goal-setting session of the Monday Nite Footballers. and his wife, Sandra, joined forces to address Ollie’s weight. He began eating more fruits and vegetables, and to eat “smaller” portions. With Sandra’s encouragement, Ollie has shed 74 pounds, and is enjoying life. It shows how important family is to health care.
Rosalie is a graduate of Lincoln High School and earned a Master’s in Counseling from Mizzou in the late 1960s. As director of personnel and training at then-new Wayne Miner Health Center, she was among the first hires made by Dr. Sam Rodgers. While many today rave about community health workers as a solution to address racial disparities, Rosalie can be credited as a pioneer. She developed training programs for the health center employees, and established key collaborative efforts with major health institutions. She is a major reason why the Rodgers’ Health Center got off to a good start and still holds steady 50 years later.
Yvonne has an impressive resume: elected Missouri Senator in 2004; a member of Lincoln University Board of Curators; world traveler. But I want to highlight the work she has done on healthy policy for children at Woodland School where she served as principal. She introduced Sam Rodgers’ dental care to each classroom and ensured that a dentist treated every child. She also had the highest rate of compliant immunizations in the entire city. Though she will be 90 next month, she still believes the health care and the education systems must unite and collaborate fully. She made big things happen in the toughest part of the city.
In spite of some plaguing health issues, Richard is still pretty active for a senior; this winter you’ll find him shoveling away at the recent snow and ice. He’s always praising the Lord on Facebook, texting his friends, and plays dominoes, three times a week. As the building manager at his alma mater, KC Central Eagles, he helped organize the first African-American “health-related walking club,” in the early 90s, by inviting walkers to use the Central gym, at 4:30 a.m with about two dozen walkers. It was all helped along, by one small act of kindness from Richard.
Carl was born in General Hospital #2, the city’s segregated hospital for blacks, 84 years ago. He graduated from segregated Lincoln High School in 1952. After a tour in the Navy, he worked as a machinist at Colgate-Palmolive for 31 years. But, Carl is so much more than his bio indicates. He’s been an officer for the Kiwanis Club and the prestigious Ivanhoe Club. He’s currently a 32nd-degree Mason and a member of St. James. Carl’s hustled for everything he has. He sold The Call papers in the 18th and Vine area, when the paper sold for 10 cents. Today, Carl is a fearless commentator for the same Kansas City Call, by being part of the Monday Nite Footballers Group. In fact, Carl was among the first to purchase season tickets for the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s when the Chiefs played their home games, right in our neighborhood at 22nd and Brooklyn. But Carl struggles with diabetes and other aging concerns. He still finds time to golf and interact with his hundreds of friends around town. He just keeps smiling and keeps going.
Calvin is 82 and works every day, remodeling houses all over the metropolitan area. He was born in an unincorporated area of Wyandotte County, called White Church, known now as 88th and Georgia. Known by most people as “CRICKET,” he can be found trading stories at local pubs. He’s always pleasant company and has friends of all ages. He served in the military and until recently, owned two Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He credits his continued good health by staying active and always interacting with younger people.
At 85, Lloyd still rides his motorcycle and talks about growing up in the 18th and Vine area. You’ll hear stories of his time at Wheatley Hospital, in the days when health care was segregated. He worked for Dr. Dixon, a black doctor, who helped Lloyd stay in school and graduate from Lincoln High in 1985. Despite his past struggles, he feels strongly that the educational system does well with assisting the smarter and more troubled kids. So lately, he’s been watching the KCPS efforts to achieve accreditation, making sure that those like him, are not overlooked. He even invited the assistant superintendent to his home, to share the cultural intricacies of our community. A few years ago, he retired as a model KCFD firefighter and is a reliable, social commentator for the Monday Nite Footballers. Lloyd became a better person because of the community around him and pledges to keep that tradition, no matter what.
A 1953 Lincoln High grad, Dorothy graduated from nursing school at General Hospital and was later employed there when General Hospital was renamed Truman Medical Center. Because of her diligence, vigilance, competence, and patient-relations skills, she became the first black female to become president/CEO of a major health care institution: Swope Ridge Nursing Facility. Her proudest achievement was guiding Swope Ridge into full accreditation status from the prestigious Joint Commission. Let’s salute this 84-year-old giantess, who has also been a member of Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church for over 70 years.
Clara Shields Maddox
When Clara graduated from Lincoln High, she had no idea she would become such a force in health care matters. As a registered nurse, she became the first black woman to chair the American Heart Association. Her greatest contribution was her relentless efforts to raise the level of respect and pay for nurses. She also had dedicated herself to educate her community about hypertension. While at Rodgers Health Center, she taught community residents about their illness. She even hosted the first radio show in the nation, aimed specifically for the health care of African-Americans. That show still airs weekly on Gospel 1590.
Dr. Jasper Fullard
At 12, Jasper gave serious thought to becoming a doctor after his mom nearly bled to death. Determined to make things better for those in his community, he became one of the first African-Americans admitted to medical school at the University of Wisconsin. After a residency at KU Medical Center, he settled in Kansas City and eventually co-founded the Black Health Care Coalition. Dr. Fullard has relentlessly pursued the irascible and egregious inequalities in health.