August 7, 2012
Mary Jane Daniels (Coleman) passed away Aug. 1, 2012, surrounded by family at North Kansas City Hospice House. Funeral arrangements are by Louis Memorial Chapel, Kansas City, Mo.
Mary Jane was born July 23, 1921, at St. Vincent’s Maternity Hospital at 23rd Street and Walrond Avenue in Kansas City, Mo., one of four sisters born to Mary Ellen and Robert Edward Coleman. Mary Jane’s parents would oft tell of the day of Mary Jane’s birth as being one of the hottest days of the summer of 1921. Born in the days prior to the advent of central air conditioning systems, Mary Jane’s father, Robert, would frequently bemoan waiting for almost 24 hours in a hospital waiting room, where only the placement of a single 6-inch fan (non-oscillating by the way) in the maternity waiting room, kept the waiting fathers “cool.” Mary Jane was named for a popular candy treat of the day, the Mary Jane candy bar, a small molasses and peanut butter chew. When Mary Jane’s mother awoke after her birth, a St. Vincent’s nun stood over her, smiling and clad in a white habit with the winged hat. Mary Jane’s mother thought she had died and gone to heaven. Interestingly, Mary Jane was delivered by one of the first (and best according to Mary Jane’s mother) obstetricians in the Kansas City area, Dr. Minford A. Hanna. Much family hay was made because Dr. Hanna was a Jewish doctor and he delivered Mary Jane in a Catholic hospital.
Mary Jane attended grade school in Argentine, Kan., now part of present day Kansas City, Kan.
She developed a flair for the theater at an early age, beginning a radio career at age 11 that lasted almost 20 years. Most of that career was with KMBC radio where she was the voice of Mary Jane Thompson, assistant to Joann Taylor on the Joann Taylor radio show, “a dramatized presentation of store news for the John Taylor Dry Goods Company.” Mary Jane was also highly sought after for her voice work in radio, at one time playing the role of four different children in one KMBC radio show.
In 1941, Mary Jane was selected by the Skelly Oil Company to be Miss Fortified Tagalene, one of Skelly’s flagship lubricants of the day. Mary Jane was also a Tower Adorable during the 1940s, representing the famous downtown Tower (later Pantages) Theater, often appearing at promotional events advertising the theater’s upcoming shows and events. It was during this period she became friends with many future stars of 1950s and 60s television such as Red Skelton, Veronica Lake, Wally Westmore, Joan Caulfield and Paul Henning (Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies.) During that same time, Mary Jane was the catalogue sales manager at the huge Montgomery Ward building at Belmont and St. John in the Historic Northeast area of Kansas City, often navigating four streetcar transfers from the family home at 1812 S. 14th in Argentine just to get to work. That would be unheard of in today’s society.
While attending junior college, Mary Jane was awarded the first place cup in the interpretive reading competition held at the Kansas State forensic tournament in El Dorado, Kan., in 1940. Throughout the rest of her life, Mary Jane loved local theater and was often a fixture at local debate and forensic tournaments in the Kansas City area. Mary Jane was also an instructor at the Patricia Stevens Modeling School here in Kansas City, offering consultative commentary on young women’s fashion coordination.
Following the death of her fiancé, an Army air fighter pilot, she met Harry Huntman. They were married and Mary Jane was the quintessential doting wife, supporting Harry in his endeavors and activities which often involved some of Kansas City’s most notorious figures. To that union a daughter was born, Sarah Jane Huntman, in 1955. Mary Jane was so scared of hurting the little child, she relied on her sister Hanna for instructions on giving the first bath to young Sarah Jane.
Mary Jane and her family narrowly escaped death in December of 1958 when a small plane crash landed on the Huntman house in the Indianola subdivision near Waterworks Park, killing both occupants of the airplane. All occupants of the house, the Huntmans and their houseguests, escaped injury. The event was chronicled on the front page of the Kansas City Times.
Following the passing of her first husband, Mary Jane met the love of her life, Leon Daniels, a store manager at the Indian Springs Krigels Jewelry store. They were married and had five glorious years together before his untimely death in 1980.
Mary Jane was a long-time employee of the Missouri Division of Employment Security office in Gladstone, Mo., spending over 17 years helping applicants find gainful employment. Many of those applicants remained lifelong friends with Mary Jane, often noting her doting and giving nature – traits she was extremely proud of.
Mary Jane was proceeded in death by her parents, Robert Edward and Mary Ellen Coleman (Fulton), and her sisters Emalou Hurst, Carolyn Foster.
She is survived by one sister, Hanna Mann and her husband, Howard, of Overland Park; a daughter, Sarah-Jane and husband, R. Douglas Reed, of Kansas City; many nieces, nephews and extended family members who loved her as a second mother.