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1923 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
A remarkable life came to an end February 28, 2017. Carolee was born May 25, 1923, in Madison, Kansas, to Aaron L. Sauder and Bess Wiggins Sauder. She married L.J. (Jim) Leek on June 20, 1945, about one year after his return from service in the south Pacific where he was the captain of PT Boat 161. They lived in Madison until 1954 when they moved, with their three children, to Mission, Kan. Carolee was restless and enrolled in law school at the University of Kansas City (now UMKC), where she was one of only three female students. She received her J.D. in 1959 and, after passing the Kansas bar exam, joined Larry Wagner and Bill Mullins to form the law firm Wagner, Leek and Mullins. After a brief break for the birth of her fourth child, she practiced law for over 30 years. Carolee was the first career woman lawyer in Johnson County and a role model for countless women lawyers in Kansas City. Although few now recognize her name, she paved the way for female lawyers with her professionalism, style and class. During her career, she became one of the premier domestic relations attorneys in Kansas. She helped end the marriages of many, a somewhat grim exercise offset by the joy of assisting couples in private adoptions. She was a board member of many organizations including the Johnson County Mental Health Association, Johnson County Boys' Club, Baker University Board of Trustees, State Committee on Penal Reform, and Mid America 7th Step Foundation, among others. She also served on the Kansas Adult Authority (parole board) and became chairman in 1976. She was the municipal judge of Mission, Kansas, from 1965 to 1969, making her one of a handful of female judges at any level in the United States at that time. She did not take herself seriously, but she did take her job seriously. Early in her tenure as judge, she found one young woman innocent of shoplifting cheap jewelry, but guilty of "excessively poor taste". At Baker University she was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She was a lifelong Methodist and stalwart Republican. She was chairman of the Johnson County Committee to elect Gerald Ford and was appointed by President Ford to serve on the Citizen's Advisory Board on the Status of Women. She received many professional accolades, including the LaSertoma Award as Johnson County Woman of the Year. With all her professional accomplishments, her greatest joy was spending time with her children, grandchildren and many close friends. She enjoyed traveling and made trips to Europe, China, South America, Cuba, Vietnam, Mexico and Australia. She loved to work in the garden, play bridge, needlepoint and read. She told great stories, many of which were fact based. She saw the KU-North Carolina NCAA triple overtime championship game because "there was nothing else going on that night". She reminisced about waiting for her new husband to be released from the hospital after Army great Glen Davis broke his ribs in the Army- Motor Torpedo Boat Training Center football game on October 20, 1945, at West Point. She struggled late in life with dementia and countless health problems. She endured trips to doctors, surgeries and hospital stays with good humor and a positive attitude. She could be a challenge, but she also showed a remarkable ability to revert to her best qualities. She maintained a sense of humor when she could not tell you the date. She had good manners when she did not know where she was or how she got there. When reminded recently that she was 93 years old, she commented, "No wonder I am in such bad shape." Carolee was predeceased by her parents, her husband, Jim, her son, Jay, and her siblings, Mary Fran, Lee and Robert. She is survived by her children, Andrea, Kevin, David and their spouses, along with 12 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Her family would like to thank the staffs of both the Forum of Overland Park and Park Meadows - Memory Care for their kind and thoughtful care of Carolee over the last few years. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the L. James (Jay) Leek, Jr. Memorial Scholarship at Baker University c/o Office of Advancement, PO Box 65 Baldwin City, KS 66006. A family gathering to commemorate Carolee's life is planned for the near future.
Published in Kansas City Star on Mar. 5, 2017
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