Jeanne Woodcox Taggart, 93, died peacefully on June 11, 2020, surrounded by the love of her family after a heartbreaking struggle with dementia.
Jeanne was born on August 5, 1926 in Topeka, the only child of Grace (Huff) and Ashley Woodcox. Legally, she was Norma Jeanne, named after the silent film star Norma Shearer, but she hated the name Norma. In 1950 she married Bob Taggart, who passed away in February 2019.
Jeanne loved school, mostly for its social aspects, attending VanBuren Elementary, Crane Junior High, and Topeka High School. She was active in Girl Scouts, played saxophone in the band, and was Secretary of Topeka High’s Student Council. She was a darling girl who always wore the latest and greatest fashions. In high school, when her Dad decided to teach her to drive he simply put her behind the wheel of his big car…right on Kansas Avenue! Scared to death, but bolstered by his confidence, she quickly learned to drive!
She attended Washburn University, where she joined the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Even though she was local, she lived in the Theta house when her parents moved out to SE 53rd and Berryton Road because her parents thought that was too far to drive.
After graduating college Jeanne worked for Braniff Airlines, with offices in the renowned Jayhawk Hotel. When Braniff announced they were transferring Jeanne to Tulsa, Oklahoma, her high school sweetheart Bob Taggart immediately announced they were getting married…and they did…just over a month later! After they were married, volunteer work filled her days, mostly through Junior League, as a Girl Scout leader, and at the Kansas Museum of History.Once her nest was empty, Jeanne began working for the Topeka Convention and Visitors Bureau. She loved that job and it was a perfect fit. She gave trolley and bus tours to visitors and school groups and assisted with conventions. She became one of Topeka’s biggest cheerleaders!
Bob and Jeanne have two children, Robin and Joe. Robin and her husband Bob Hannigan gave her two granddaughters, Christal and Kaitlin. Christal is married to Josh Coufal and Kaitlin is married to Clayton “Grizz” Smith. Joe and his wife Tina gave her two grandsons, Able and Simon. Able and his wife Ashley are parents to four of her greatgrandchildren, Aliah, Anthony, Mia and Ella. Aliah is married to Michael Singer and they have the first great-great-grandchild, Liam, and one on the way.. Simon and Christina gave her two greatgrandchildren, Cashton and Jaiden. Before Robin and Joe came along, Bob and Jeanne joined the overseas Foster Parent Plan in 1955 and were connected with Helene Domchenko, a seven year old Ukrainian girl born in a German Displaced Persons Camp. Their relationship blossomed even more when Helene’s family moved to the United States. Helene was like another daughter and truly enriched their lives.
Living up to Kappa Alpha Theta’s motto, Jeanne’s involvement in Theta was for a lifetime. She was thrilled to see her daughter and granddaughter follow in her Theta footsteps. At Washburn she served on the Theta advisory board, corporation board, and was honored as “Theta of the Year”. She was known as The Poinsettia Lady, selling thousands of poinsettias at Christmas to benefit Theta’s charities (originally Institute of Logopedics, then CASA - Court Appointed Special Advocates). For over 40 years her home became a sea of red as hundreds of poinsettia plants were delivered every December and old and new friends and neighbors stopped by to pick up their flowers.
Jeanne grew up in the Methodist church but became a born-again Christian in the early 1970’s. She had an unwavering belief in God, who gave her strength. Her primary church for many years was First Assembly of God. She loved attending other Pentecostal churches as well, including those in the Palm Springs area where they owned a second home for 35 years.
She was fortunate to travel, mostly due to Bob’s business conferences and her early employment with Braniff Airlines. Her travels took her throughout Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Fiji, Cuba, Morocco, The Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, and much of the US.
She was a devoted sports fan and followed her Jayhawks and Royals intensely. She knew all their players and rooted hard for them! She was an accomplished tennis player and she and Bob were instrumental in getting the tennis courts, and later the indoor tennis facility at Topeka Country Club. Until she broke her hip at age 88 she was an avid walker, touring her beloved Knollwood neighborhood for several miles every morning and evening.
Jeanne was loving and kind, yet fun and spunky. Even as dementia set in, her personality remained unchanged and she never took on the mean and nasty traits of dementia. She has shown all of us how to live life in a Godly way, thankful for our blessings. In turn, she has been a blessing to all of us.
A Celebration of Life will be at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1275 SW Boswell, Topeka on Sunday, June 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm.
Pets were an important part of Jeanne’s life and memorials can be sent to Helping Hands Humane Society. Alternatively, the Topeka High Historical Society or Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Penwell-Gabel Cremations, Funerals & Receptions in Topeka is assisting the family.
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