Marcene Dameron Grimes, 88, of Topeka passed away on Saturday, April 27, 2019. She was born June 9, 1930 in Kansas City, Missouri, the daughter of Claude Harold Dameron and Lillie Lee Dunivent. She graduated from Southwest High School in Kansas City in 1947 and earned a B.A. degree in political science from the University of Kansas in 1951, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Marcene married her high school sweetheart Jim Grimes on September 8, 1951 in Kansas City, Missouri. Jim was a popular dance band leader throughout his high school and college years. Lacking vocal talent, Marcene became Jim’s “Band Girl”, learning how to set up and tear down bandstands and the other background chores involved in running a band. In her 18th year, she took band arranging lessons from K.C. trombonist Bob Brookmeyer who soon became a world -renowned jazz musician. Jim and Marcene became lifelong jazz enthusiasts and promoters. Jim became a respected lawyer in Topeka until his death in 1999.
Marcene is survived by her sons; Paul Christopher Grimes, Topeka, Kansas, Patrick Joel (Sheralea) Grimes of Olathe, Kansas and one granddaughter; Taylor M. (Desmen) Williams of Olathe. She is also survived by her sister; Muriel Dameron of Irvine, California and sister-in-law; Nancy Cope of Leawood, Kansas. Also surviving are her nephews; Mark and Steven Sugars in California, John (Marla) Cope of Lenexa, KS and Andy (Susan) Cope of Prairie Village, KS, and her niece; Donna Cope (Jim) Pirotte of Prairie Village, Kansas and their respective families.
Marcene’s work experience from the 1950s through the 1970s was with the Governmental Research Center at Kansas University, the Kansas Water Resources Board, Kansas Park and Resources Authority, and Governor Bob Bennett’s Task Force on Water Resources in 1977 and 1978 chaired by Lt. Governor Shelby Smith. In all of these positions, her primary function was to research, write and edit reports, newsletters, articles and booklets that were published by her byline or credited to her in some way.
In 1986, Marcene was asked to help organize the newly incorporated Topeka Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Her title was Executive Director and she was instrumental in building the Topeka Chapter into a strong and respected local nonprofit organization that gained a reputation for its annual fund-raising parties in private homes. She continued to work for the Alzheimer’s cause until July 1, 2003 when her position was terminated as the result of a merger with the Heart of America Chapter in Kansas City. Her 17 years of longevity as director of a local office of the Alzheimer’s Association was among the highest in the nation.
After a brief period of working part time for AARP Kansas as a consultant and volunteer recruiter, she got serious about trying her hand at writing a novel. In February 2006, her novel, “Ill Blows the Wind”, was self-published on the controversial subject of the wind farm development in the Flint Hills of Kansas. While it did not become a best seller, the 400 copies sold were a source of great personal satisfaction to Marcene. She did not publish anything after that but did make several attempts at other works of fiction.
Marcene was also a dedicated community volunteer, her principal service over the years being with the Junior League of Topeka, Melody Brown Fun Factory of Arts, Arts Council of Topeka, Topeka Civic Theatre and Topeka Jazz Workshop, Inc. She and Jim helped organize the Topeka Jazz Workshop Inc. Concert Series in 1969, and she served as Treasurer the first five years when Jim was President. She also became historian of the organization, publishing histories of it in 1985, 2000, 2009 and 2015.
In January 2006, Marcene was hired on a part time basis as Executive Director of the Topeka Jazz Workshop, Inc., following the death of long-time President Jim Monroe. In this capacity and working out of her home, she was responsible for making all the arrangements for ten concerts a season, plus related activities. She retired from this position as of July 1, 2015.
Among Marcene’s affiliations, in addition to the Jazz Workshop and the Junior League were the Topeka Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Greater Topeka Class of 1989, Topeka Area Continuity of Care (an organization of local health care professionals), Jayhawk Society of the Kansas University Alumni Association, Kansas Authors Club and the American Business Women’s Association.
As a member of Leadership Greater Topeka, she was thrilled to get to participate in August 2003 in an orientation flight on a KC-135 flown by the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard.
An avid, amateur tennis player until she turned 80, Marcene accumulated many tennis trophies over the years, her favorite being the 35 and over lady’s single championship at Topeka’s 4th of July Tournament in 1977. She was also a prolific reader of fiction, averaging 10 novels a month even while writing her own novel.
Although not a regular church-goer, Marcene and family had joined the Trinity Presbyterian Church in their early family years and she considered herself a “proper God loving Christian”.
She was the proud parent of many cats and two dogs over the years as well as a grandparent to three dogs.
Memorial services will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, June 1, 2019 at Mount Hope Cemetery & Funeral Chapel where a reception will follow the service. Private inurnment will take place in Mount Hope Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to the Topeka Jazz Workshop Inc. at PO Box 452, Topeka, KS 66601, specifying the MARCENE and JIM GRIMES JAZZ FUTURE FUND, a special fund created in 2015 by local philanthropist Liz Stratton.
Dove Southeast Chapel, 2843 SE Minnesota Ave. is assisting the family.
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