Jeanne Lillig-Patterson

July 10, 1958September 4, 2017

Jeanne Lillig-Patterson passed away into the arms of the Lord on Monday, September 4th, surrounded by family and friends after a decade-long battle with cancer. Her life was marked by strength, humor, and tremendous love. The daughter of Paul and Frances Lillig, Jeanne grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She liked to recall that she was “born backwards” and felt that this had some bearing on her personality, noting “I came out pretty independent.” Jeanne was the third of six children and was raised as part of a large, bustling Irish Catholic family. She attended Bishop Hogan High School where she made lifelong friends and served as homecoming queen. At Hogan, Jeanne competed in volleyball, cheerleading, track, and played second base, but her real interest was music. Jeanne loved to sing and play piano. She continued to follow this passion to Avila University where she majored in the study of music, attending on scholarship. There, she starred in Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, and Oklahoma. She spent many of her college days waiting tables at Mario’s and listening to Cat Stevens. Jeanne received the St. Catherine’s Medal of Honor at Avila and graduated among the top in her class. This May, she received an honorary doctorate from the University for her philanthropic achievements. After graduation, Jeanne began work at a young healthcare technology company. She was the seventh employee of Cerner Corporation—earning her the affectionate nickname “007.” Jeanne’s interview was scheduled for 8 p.m. on a Friday. At the time, the company’s founders were working around the clock. Cliff Illig and Neal Patterson arrived to the meeting late and found her sitting on the steps debating whether she should stay or leave. She would stay for another 36 years. Jeanne wore many hats at the rapidly growing company. She began as a secretary and accountant, and later served as Director of Marketing and Director of Client Services. In 1984, it was Jeanne who suggested the name “Cerner Corporation.” Neal and Jeanne fell in love while working at Cerner and married soon after in 1987. Neal described Jeanne as a multi-talented woman with “a strong bias for action.” He admired Jeanne’s creative energy and loved listening to her sing. The two celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary last winter—only to realize that they were one year early. As Cerner grew, Jeanne’s role shifted to focus on her true passion, philanthropy. She founded the First Hand Foundation in 1985, an organization devoted to filling the unmet healthcare needs of children who have fallen through cracks in the insurance and government aid systems. To date, First Hand has provided care for more than 300,000 children in nearly 100 countries. As director of the charity, Jeanne drove the creation of the Healthe Kids initiative, which offers free health screenings for elementary students. She was instrumental in creating First Hand’s integrative wellness center at St. Sabina Church. Jeanne also worked to improve family benefits for Cerner employees, adding onsite childcare and education services to better the lives of working parents. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Jeanne served on the boards of Ronald McDonald House, Avila University, Bishop Hogan High School, Heartland Therapeutic Riding Academy, the American Royal, Jewel Ball and BOTAR Ball. She was an active member of St. Sabina Church, where she sang in the choir. Jeanne even ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 2004. Neal often referred to Jeanne as “the soul of Cerner.” He maintained that it was her goodness that guided the company and credited her with much of Cerner’s success. When Jeanne was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, healthcare work took on a new meaning for him. Jeanne met her challenging diagnosis with strength and humor. She amazed family, friends, and doctors with her courage and resilience. Jeanne’s determination was echoed by many in her family who watched her continue to defy medical expectations after her cancer returned and recurred six times more. Jeanne gleaned wisdom from her experiences during a long and difficult course of treatment and redoubled her efforts to live and love to her fullest potential. “Death happens...we will all die...but happiness is such an amazing thing,” she would say, “I hope I didn’t go through all that without being appropriately changed.” The happiness she created for others continues for those who live in her afterglow. Jeanne was a people person, but she especially loved children. She related to them easily and liked to play and laugh. Anytime a child came to her house, Jeanne would make sure they left with handfuls and pocketfuls of jellybeans. Neighbors, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren loved spending time with “Kicks,” as they called her. Kids swam in the pool, and Jeanne would make mac and cheese. She would, of course, eat it with them, as it was her favorite too. She would often joke about their shared culinary preferences, asking, “Is there any food for five year olds that I can eat?” Perhaps one reason that Jeanne got along so well with children was that she possessed a sense of childlike wonderment. She liked magic and whimsy, and especially Harry Potter. In her backyard, she created a tiny fairy garden complete with houses, streets, wells, and stone arches. Jeanne loved stories and learning and marveling at things bigger than herself. She brought these qualities out in others as well, reminding them not to take themselves too seriously and never to lose their sense of imagination. Jeanne was proud to be a mother. Her children brought her joy and purpose. She supported them unconditionally. As a parent, she tried to be strict but was never very good at it. On the way to school, the family listened to country music because she worried the other stations had swear words. She sang, read Lord of the Rings before bed, and liked planning family vacations. On one road trip to Canada, she mixed up the dates, accidently leaving early. Neal and Jeanne along with their kids spent their extra time driving around Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, and the Corn Palace. Jeanne was devoted to her children and they, in turn, were devoted to her. As someone who loved taking care of others, Jeanne’s cancer sometimes required her to accept help rather than give it. Through this process she passed on her caring spirit to her children. Jeanne loved to surprise people. She loved surprise parties and giving gifts for no particular reason. She would often say the last thing that you expected. She surprised her doctors and family alike by defeating all estimates she was given. Up until the very end, she kept surprising people with her grace and with her kindness and her requests to be taken to get a snow cone. Her life was filled with brightly colored things. And in turn, she gave color to everyone around her. She wore brightly colored pajamas and head-to-toe green on Saint Patrick’s Day. Jeanne loved holidays and costume parties. She loved flowers and making things beautiful. Her enthusiasm for life was contagious. We are grateful that she shared her magic with us. Jeanne was preceded in death by her husband Neal. She is survived and will be greatly missed by her children, Cortney, Will, Clay, and Lindsey; her grandchildren, Dean, Katherine, Alex, and Georgia; her parents, Paul and Frances Lillig; her siblings, Mig, Paul, Mary Ann, Tony, and Lisa, as well as many nieces, nephews, and friends. A rosary and tribute will be held on Thursday, September 7th at 4:30 p.m at St. Sabina Catholic Church, 700 Trevis Ave, Belton, Missouri. A visitation will follow until 8:00 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, September 8th at 10:30 a.m. with a private burial service to follow. Those who wish to share in the joy she created may make a donation to the First Hand Foundation, Little Sisters of the Poor, American Royal, The Carol J. Fabian Leadership and Legacy Fund, and Avila University. Assistance by Funeral Advocates, LLC. Online condolences may be left at


  • Rosary Service Thursday, September 7, 2017
  • Visitation Thursday, September 7, 2017
  • Mass of Christian Burial Friday, September 8, 2017

Jeanne Lillig-Patterson

have a memory or condolence to add?


receive updates when new memories are posted

Jim Thomas

October 5, 2017

Dear Lillig and Patterson families:

No words of man can convey the heartfelt sorrow I had when learning about Jeanne's passing to become an angel in Heaven after earning her wings on earth. She was a unique woman married to a unique man, but special in her own right as aa mother, sister, daughter, and community leader.

No one who met Jeanne can ever forget her beauty, engaging smile, and singing voice, plus her zest for life fully lived, even during her trials with cancer and losing Neal. Sharing fishing trips, birthday parties at the ranch, St. Patrick brunches at the Lilligs, or dinners with candlelight at Neal and Jeanne's home, every moment with Jeanne was a delight....she just lit up every occasion. She thought of others in need, both personal friends and the Kansas City community with the First Hand Foundation plus countless other charitable entities at home and overseas. Feelings for others less fortunate were just in Jeanne's DNA.

May God wrap you all in His loving embrace as you grieve as do I, her close friends and all of Kansas City. God sent Jeanne to us to show us what sainthood looks like in the flesh. May we honor Him and her memory following her special example of a life so well lived here on earth.

Susan Scott

September 14, 2017

As the past owners of Neal and Jeanne's two lovely homes in Captiva, Florida, we have been so sadden by the passing of both of them. We loved the creation of the new putting green and the connection of the two pools which made for a wonderful family compound. We are so upset that they did not have more of an opportunity to enjoy Captiva. It was always fun to see the pool full of "toys" and activity on the dock.
We send our deepest condolences to all the family and we hope you continue to enjoy Captiva as your parents did.
Susan and Craig Scott

Lori Bunch

September 8, 2017

I have known Jeanne through work at Cerner for many years, especially with her leadership of the First Hand Foundation. But I was always especially touched by the sweetness that she showed to my nephew Jaidyn when he would visit her nephew. He would come home and talk about Jeanne and how she fixed them a wonderful lunch or snack. Her sweetness will lived on in cherished memories.

Mary Kay Heili

September 7, 2017

Dear Frances and Paul, I'm so sorry for your loss. I was a grateful recipient of your help and Jeanne's support when I worked at Bishop Hogan. May God bless you and Jeanne's family and may she and Neal rest in peace. Mary Kay Heili

Liane Lance

September 7, 2017

Jeanne deserves all the many accolades she will receive. I met her when we were both in our early twenties, working for Neal, Cliff and Paul in the "Madison Ave" offices. One of the first times she and I had to run an errand together, we were in an older beater car she was driving and it broke down and we had to be rescued. It was a hot day and we were melting - but laughing too! She introduced me to Mario's Grinder sandwiches (and yes, they WERE the best!) We worked together at Cerner for over 30 years and while I have many, many memories, one of the sweetest is from 23 years ago when I was going through chemo for breast cancer. She showed up at our house several times with a car loaded down with lots of food from some of our favorite restaurants. This was during a time when she was busy moving into their house in Loch Lloyd - but she still made time to deliver food to us! When I reminded her of this recently, she smiled at the memory and said simply "But, that's what you needed at the time. And that's what you do for friends". What a sweet way to remember that kindness. I am lucky to have so many wonderful memories of both Neal and Jeanne. RIP and thanks, once again, for all your simple acts of kindness that meant so much, to so many.

Libby Kreighbaum

September 7, 2017

In the 70's when my parents added a recording studio in our basement, I will never forget Jeanne was the very first to record. I remember her being so talented and beautiful, and was very fun having her at our home. Hugs and peace to all her family.

Mona Price

September 7, 2017

I still have fond memories of times spent with Jeanne when we were the two music Majors at Avila. I regret not keeping in touch. Condolences,
Mona Price

Cyn Clark

September 7, 2017

I am so sorry for your loss. Blessings and prayers to the Lillig and Patterson families.

Kelly Close

September 7, 2017

I know there are no words that I can say to ease the pain. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of Jeanne's family and friends. Hugs to all. Thank you Jeanne!!

Kathy Bisaha Smith

September 7, 2017

Condolences to the entire Lillig & Patterson families!
I grew up with the Lilligs at St Elizabeth with thousands of wonderful memories!
Jeanne an angel on earth now looks upon us as an angel in heaven !!
May her & Neal rejoice together & RIP!
Hugs & prayers to the families