DeSoto loses a true pioneer
The City of DeSoto lost a friend last week when Pansy Penner died at the age of 95.
Penner moved to DeSoto as a child and spent her life in service of the town she loved, according to friends and family members.
Historian, teacher, writer, community activist and friend are all terms those who loved Penner used to describe her.
She taught elementary school in the DeSoto area for many years and wrote a column for The DeSoto News from 1944 to 1971. The column, entitled "This 'n That," kept locals up to date on community news. When the paper was sold in 1971, Penner went to work for the Shawnee Journal and the Olathe Daily News, continuing her coverage of community events and documenting the history of DeSoto.
She was a member of the DeSoto United Methodist Church until 1988 when she began attending the Clearview City Village Church. She was a 75-year member of Liberty Rebekah Lodge 631 and a 50-year member of the DeSoto chapter of the Eastern Star.
Penner also found time to serve on the town's museum board, cemetery board and the economic development committee.
Lana McPherson grew up in DeSoto and remembers Penner as a woman she admired.
"So many adjectives come to mind when I think of her," McPherson said. "She was so involved in the community. When you went to an event, you just expected to see her there. When she was no longer able to do that, it just felt like something was missing. And something was missing, her."
Penner was well-rounded and one of the most intelligent women you could ever hope to meet, McPherson said.
"She was very well read, very intellectual," she said. "She could talk to her first or second graders or she could rub elbows with politicians and hold her own."
Dott Stephens remembers Penner first as a friend.
"She was so friendly and easy to talk to," Stephens said. "She wouldn't say anything bad about anyone, ever. There aren't too many of those kinds left."
Ronnie McDaniel became close to Penner when he moved across the street from her in 1965. Most Sunday mornings he spent visiting her, he said. Last weekend he served as a pall bearer at her funeral.
"She was kind of like my best friend. But she was everybody's best friend," McDaniel said. "I don't care what you wanted to talk about, she was up on it."
Talking to Penner was like taking a trip back in time, McDaniel said.
"She just knew so much about this area," he said. "We were talking one day and she asked me if I knew how Ferry Street got its name. She told me it used to go through to the river. I used to tell her, 'Pansy, you need to get all of this down on paper.'"
Talking about his friend just a few days after losing her was not at all difficult for McDaniel.
"I'll be talking about Pansy for the rest of my life," he said.