‘The glue that held our family together.’ Voncille Strong, KC entrepreneur’s mom, dies
Trish Mitchell publishes her own magazine and writes stage plays and articles. But the toughest thing she has ever had to write, she says, was her mother’s obituary.
Voncille Strong, a retired warehouse worker and mother of five, died from kidney failure on Jan 7. She was 70.
“She was my biggest supporter and never missed a production no matter what I did,” says Mitchell. “Seeing her struggle and work so hard to provide for her children, I knew I wanted another way. No one ever taught her there was another way, but she made sure to teach us.”
Mitchell also has her own eye-wear line, active wear and a production company and credits her mother for giving her ingenuity and a work ethic.
Strong was truly the matriarch of the family, being there for not only her children but her 20 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
“We are all trying to find a new normal. How do we go on living her life without her? We lost such a bright light when we lost her. We have to find all new ways to do things without her,” Mitchell says.
Even though Strong was a single parent and worked long hours, she always put on a tough face for her children, says Mitchell, the second-born child.
“She was resilient. Her last name was appropriate — she was strong. She was the glue that held our family together. Her whole life was about her family,” she says.
When Strong retired in 2018 after 43 years working at the warehouse, she didn’t know what to do with her free time. Finally, she learned to take a moment and do the things she could never do. Something as simple as staying in and watching a scary movie with the lights out in a quiet house.
In recent years Mitchell and her mother traveled together, around the country and on Caribbean cruises.
“Traveling became a big thing for us,” Mitchell says. “We really were able to bond on a different level. I learned on these trips she never met a stranger. She loved people and would talk to anyone. She was a real people person.”
Mitchell, a mother and grandmother in her own right, now finds herself mustering the strength to be there for the family as her mother was. In addition to her nonprofit publication “All Black Everything,” she created The Purple Gift Foundation in memory of her mother’s love for children. The organization donates purple teddy bears to children in hospitals, clinics, community centers and shelters.
“The most important thing she taught me was never let anyone do your thinking for you. She wanted us to be individuals who were impactful and left their footprints.”
She is survived by her children, Tonia Strong, Trish Mitchell, Barbara Strong, Tamika Jenkins, Anthony Jackson; siblings Michael Johnson, Reginald Strong, Darryl Strong, Renee Wright, Aquanette Babalola, Angela Strong-Sigars, and Belinda Thompson; along with a host of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
Leilana McKindra, writer, editor and communications specialist, died Jan 12. She was 49.
McKindra was born Sept. 20, 1973, in Kansas City, Kansas, to Howard and Beatrice McKindra. As a child she was known for her smile, sense of humor and positive attitude. Growing up in the church, she was a member of the choir and assisted with activities. After graduating from Sumner Academy in 1992, McKindra earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Texas Christian University and a master’s degree in communication studies at the University of Kansas.
For over 25 years, she worked as a writer, editor and media relations manager at Oklahoma State University and Kansas Medical Center.
Remembered for her wide range of interests, her main passion was reading, especially mystery and romance. She was also a big sports fan, rooting for her favorite team, the KU Jayhawks.
She is survived by her father, Howard McKindra; siblings, Traci McKindra Harper and Travis McKindra; along with a host of nieces and nephews.
James Banks, father and firefighter died Jan 20. He was 81.
Banks was born Feb. 5, 1941, to Samuel and Beatrice Banks. Growing up in the church, he sang in the children’s choir and was educated in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. He was remembered for being a smart young man with exceptional grades. After graduating high school, he served in the United States Air Force as an aircraft mechanic.
Banks married wife Janice in 1963 and they had a daughter, Shelley Banks. Banks started a career as a firefighter and became one of the first Black fire chiefs in the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department.
After retiring at 50, he was able to focus on his passions, such as reading, writing and constant education.
He is survived by his sisters Kathryn Rowland and Carolyn Starkey; brother Mike Robinson; daughter Shelley Coulter; along with a host of nieces, nephews and grandchildren.