William A. Cleaver Sr.

September 2, 1940May 24, 2019

William A Cleaver, 78, passed away suddenly at his home in Olathe on Friday, May 24, 2019. Will was preceded in death by his sisters, Lois Smisor and Darlene Casey, and his grandson, Sawyer King Christoffersen.

Will is survived by his brother, Ronald Cleaver; his wife, Kaye Cleaver; his children Christy (Kevin) Christoffersen and Will Cleaver Jr.; his grandchildren: Bri Ryan, Jackson Christoffersen, Bennett Christoffersen, Zack Cleaver, Kaylee Cleaver, Kennedy Cleaver and Madelyn Cleaver.

Will was born on his family farm near Iola, KS on September 2, 1940 to Shirley Opal Cross Cleaver and Harold Clayton Cleaver. He grew up in Iola and Wichita, and graduated from Iola High School in 1958. He joined the Navy in August of 1958 at the age of 17. He served 3 years as an air traffic controller and was a combat information crew member on a Super Constellation flying the North Atlantic barrier and flew radar cover for the Bay of Pigs (Cuban Invasion, April 1960). He gave the Navy credit for teaching him discipline and study skills.

After the Navy, he returned to Wichita and enrolled at Wichita State University and graduated with honors in 1966. While at Wichita State, he met and married Kaye Peters. Their daughter, Christy, was born in 1963. After graduation, he worked as a newspaper reporter for the Wichita Eagle & Beacon. He had always dreamed of being an attorney, and in 1964 he left Wichita to attend the University of Kansas Law School. For financial reasons, after one semester he left KU Law School, and went to work with his brother, Ron Cleaver, in real estate sales in Johnson County.

Their son, Willie, was born in 1971. Will was able to return to law school, this time at UMKC, while working as an independent appraiser for Capital Federal and the Veterans Administration. He graduated from UMKC in December of 1972 and was admitted to the practice of law in Kansas in April of 1973.

He started his law practice office in Overland Park in 1973, and in 1976 purchased a building at the corner of 80th & Foster in downtown Overland Park. It was the first building renovated in the area and the beginning of restoration in downtown Overland Park. Will served as chairman of the Downtown Overland Park Association and worked with the business association and the city to revitalize the area.

In 1976, he was appointed as a part time municipal judge for Overland Park and was named Chief Judge in 1981. In 1991, he was appointed to the District Court of the 10th Judicial District of the State of Kansas and served there until he retired in 2002. While District Judge, he was one of the founders of “Changing Lives thru Literature”, an adult reading program for convicted felons. Studies indicated that the program contributed to a significant reduction in recidivism. Will was active with the Johnson County Bar Association, serving on the board as President in 1991-92. Will also served on the board of the State of Kansas District Judges Association from 1992 until retirement.

In 2008, Will began a long fight with cancer. The next two years were difficult, but Will made a remarkable recovery and was cancer free. He and his family are forever grateful to Will's brother Ron and his family for their love, support and hospitality during that time.

Will was always mindful of the many people that impacted his life – the Navy buddy that tutored him in air traffic control school; Harold Baldwin who helped him get qualified as a VA appraiser, which made it possible for him to finish law school; the many friends and associates who supported his appointment as a District Court Judge; and his many friends of Bill who were always there with the right words at the right time. He believed that no one can reach their goals without the help of others, and always tried to pay that forward. He was aware and thankful of the support so many people gave him throughout his life.

Will enjoyed spending time outdoors with his family and friends, including years of camping, many summers at Lake of the Ozarks and other trips. After retirement, Will and Kaye enjoyed traveling, especially spending winters in San Carlos, Mexico and fishing in the Sea of Cortez, and the many friends he and Kaye made there. Will loved singing and playing guitar. He made the annual pilgrimage to the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield every September for 27 years and hosted jam sessions with his local musician friends regularly in his home. He played in a local string band called “Cabin Fever” for over 10 years.

Most of all, he enjoyed his time spent with his son and daughter and their families. Will was an avid reader, especially history. Will’s life was filled with his passions – family, friends, music and the law.

Services will be held 2pm, Friday, May 31 at McGilley & Frye, 105 E. Loula St, Olathe KS. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the ACLU of Kansas, 6701 W. 64th St, #210, Overland Park, KS 66202.


  • Harold Cleaver, Father
  • Shirley Opal (Cross) Cleaver, Mother
  • Kaye Cleaver, Wife
  • Sawyer King Christoffersen, Grandson
  • Lois Smisor, Sister
  • Darleen Casey, Sister
  • Christy Christoffersen, Daughter
  • Kevin Christoffersen, Son-in-law
  • Will Cleaver Jr., Son
  • Bri Ryan, Granddaughter
  • Jackson Christoffersen, Grandson
  • Bennett Christoffersen, Grandson
  • Zack Cleaver, Grandson
  • Kaylee Cleaver, Granddaughter
  • Kennedy Cleaver, Granddaughter
  • Madelyn Cleaver, Granddaughter
  • Ronald Cleaver, Brother

  • ACLU of Kansas


  • "Celebration Of Life" Friday, May 31, 2019


William A. Cleaver Sr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Roxanna Johnston

June 3, 2019

Writing for my Mom, Judith (Mollohan) Johnston. Will's dad (Bud) married her mom (Blanche). Mom thought a lot of Will. She's still with us but can't write this herself. Our thoughts are with the family.

Jim Mitchell

May 31, 2019

I was a boat partner with Will and Paul Dinkins in San Carlos, MX. We didn’t catch tons of fish, but we always had a great time together. We will miss Will and the good times we spent together.

Roy Schwartz

May 31, 2019

I have such fond memories of the times I spent with Will in Mexico, on the water, fishing and shooting the breeze. He was a friendly, kind and generous guy I considered a good friend.

Best wishes to Kaye and the whole Cleaver family.

Paul Dinkins

May 31, 2019

Will and I were fishing buddy boat partners having spent many fun days on the water together on the Sea of Cortez chasing fishing and trading stories and laughs. Will was an honorable man and a true friend. I will miss him.


May 29, 2019

It’s terrible to hear about your loss and I express my sincere sympathy to you and your family.

Richard Krueger

May 29, 2019

I was a member of the Cabin Fever Band and played music with Will many, many times. He was a good guitarist and a great singer. He introduced me to Dennis Moore and we had many good times around the campfire at Winfield. Once I appeared before him in court as a prospective witness in a case. He said “Let the record show that Mr. Krueger and I sometimes play what, we laughingly, call music together.” He had a wonderful sense of humor. I, like countless others, will miss him always!

Catherine Bowser

May 28, 2019

It was an honor to know Will. He was an intelligent, compassionate and insightful man. I will greatly miss his writings.

John Gerstle

May 28, 2019

We were friends and enjoyed so many things together. But the one thing that overrides every great memory is seeing your face with that ever present smile. And your utmost belief that everyone has something good in them, so why not give one more chance. If ever there was a life lived, it was yours Will. I am proud that you allowed me to be your friend for 45 years.

Dee Gerstle

May 28, 2019

Kaye, Christy and Will and all grandchildren. Just wanted to send you strength and love to get through this very difficult time.
Will was an amazing man, always had a huge smile on his face whenever I saw him . He truly was one of the nicest gentleman I have ever met and I am thankful to have known him. Love , prayers and hugs to you all