Mansfield - Missouri and the Ozarks have lost one of their most honored and esteemed citizens.
Mrs. Jean Coday, Mansfield banker, civic leader, educator, historian, philanthropist, passed away November 1, in Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis just hours before her 88th birthday.
While Mrs. Coday was well-known as president and chairman of the board of the 126-year-old HomePride Bank, her reputation as a business woman was overshadowed by her 31-year career in education and by her exemplary leadership as the longtime president of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association and as acting director of the Wilder Home and Museum.
Her immediate survivors are a son, Joseph C. Coday, Chief Executive Officer of HomePride, his wife, Kelley, of Springfield; and a daughter, Jane, of Mansfield. A son, Robert (Bobby), died in 2014.
Also surviving are three grandchildren, Stephen Coday and wife Amanda, Olathe, KS; Connor Coday and his wife Mandy, Overland Park, KS ; Patrick Coday, O'Fallon, MO; a great-granddaughter, Nora Jean Coday, Olathe, KS; many cousins and scores of friends and associates.
A native of Ash Grove, Jean was the daughter of Carl F. and Pearl Edge Short, and had fond memories of her growing-up days in Ash Grove with her parents, two brothers, Jim and Bill, and sister, Jane, all of whom are deceased.
After graduation with honors from Ash Grove High School, Jean attended Drury University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education Degree in 1952, and later a Masters Degree of Education in Elementary Counseling, and still later a specialist certification in administration. Jean and Joseph D Coday, whom she met when both were Drury students, were married in 1953.
The young Coday family, with two young sons in tow and another child (daughter Jane) soon-to-be, moved to Mansfield after the senior Joe became executive vice-president of the family-owned Bank of Mansfield, (now the anchor institution for HomePride branches in Ava, Fordland, Norwood and Seymour). It was there that began her almost storied career in education and service to the community.
Jean's longtime career in education actually began in 1952 as a history teacher for 1 year at Pipkin Junior High in Springfield and resumed in 1970 when she became a first grade teacher at Mansfield's Wilder Elementary School. In the three decades to follow, she taught first and second grades, then served as the school's first elementary counselor before being named principal. The Jean C. Coday Elementary School Elementary School Library was named in her honor in 2000, a lasting memorial for her many accomplishments over the years. Even after her retirement from active teaching, she served 12 years as a member of the Mansfield Board of Education ---several of those years as board president. Fond recollections by parents and former pupils of her teaching days were memories she cherished.
Jean's dedication to the welfare of youngsters in the community certainly didn't end with her retirement from the classroom. She never waivered in her support for the less fortunate children. A prime example was in her role as a founding member in 1992 of the Wright County Children's Home, where she helped make possible construction of a modern home complete with food, clothing and house parents for children in transition from their own home to approved foster care.
Her stamina was remarkable. She made almost daily visits to the Wilder Home and Museum to consult with and supervise the work force. Her annual salary: Zero. If not at the Wilder property, perhaps she was at her "real" office, just off the front door in the lobby of HomePride Bank…Ignore the clutter.
And while her days were almost always full, there was time for talk of the Cardinals. For many years she joined family excursions to St. Louis to see her favorite baseball team perform. As an avid all-sports fan, she was, as is HomePride Bank, a strong supporter of youth sports.
She and husband Joe were members of the Lions Club and were active in the Boy Scouts organization. They started the first Cub Scout pack in Mansfield and Jean was Girl Scout leader at one time. She was a charter member of the Mansfield Community Betterment Association, the Community Center Board for 25 years, and the 12-county Southern Ozarks Alliance for Rural Development.
Her personal memberships over the years were numerous. She was a 50-year plus member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, a philanthropic organization. She also was a member Delta Delta Delta sorority at Drury University, serving as chapter president for two years. In Springfield, where she had many friends, she attended First & Calvary Presbyterian Church.
All of Jean's accomplishments did not go unrecognized. She was named Mansfield's Citizen of the Year in 2005; was recipient of the 2003 Drury University Distinguished Alumni Award for Community Service; the Mansfield Community Betterment Award; and the Edwin P. Hubble Medal of Initiative in 2014. Also in 2014, Jean was recipient of the prestigious Missourian Award, an honor she cherished. The award concluded with the following words:
"To say that Jean has had an impact on countless lives is an understatement. She has given, and continues to give, selflessly, of her time, talent, money, and most of all her heart to those around her." To which we add: Amen!
A memorial /celebration of life for Jean will be held Friday, November 16, at 1:30 at Holman-Howe Funeral Home, Mansfield, Missouri.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association or the Coday Family Scholarship Fund. Donations to either can be sent to HomePride Bank, P.O. Box 138, Mansfield, MO 65704.