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Lois Virginia Derby Mayes
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Birth: Dec. 2, 1913
Oklahoma City
Oklahoma County
Oklahoma, USA
Death: Apr. 26, 2007
Cass County
Missouri, USA

Lois Virginia Mayes

Lois Virginia Mayes, 93, passed away April 26, 2007 at her home. Funeral services will be held Sunday April 29, 2007 at 3:00 p.m. with the visitation from 2-3:00 p.m. at D.W. Newcomer's Sons Floral Hills Chapel. Burial in Floral Hills Memorial Gardens. A devoted Christian mother holds the pioneer award for learning disability in the state of Missouri. She was the first Special Education teacher in the state of Missouri. A poet, artist who touched the lives of many people. Lois was born in Oklahoma City and was raised in Kansas City, MO where she attended Swope Park Baptist Church, Memorial Christian Church and in her retirement attended Cleveland Christian Church. She graduated Paseo high School and Kansas City Teachers College. Lois and her family extend a thank you to these special people; Becky Miller, Katie Henry, Tim Allison, Pam Barrett, Carrie Cronan, Erin Betsel, Ron Baggett, Janice Smith. Lois is preceded in death by her parents, Olie Munkress and Lester Derby, one sister and two brothers, her husband, Robert E. Mayes, daughter, Mary Ellen Masterson, grandson, Andrew Lampson, and two great-grandsons. She is survived by son, Robert Mayes, daughters, Linda Derby, Carol Mann and Nancy Thomas, ten grandchildren, twenty-two great-grandchildren, and eight great-great grandchildren. The family suggests contributions to North Care Hospice. (Arr: D.W. Newcomer's Sons Floral Hills Chapel, 7000 Blue Ridge Blvd., KCMO 64133, 816-353-1218)

Published in the April 28, 2007 edition of the Kansas City (MO) STAR

Just a week before her death, the STAR published a profile of Lois, focusing on her work with developmentally disabled children. This is what follows:

She knew Johnny could read and Lois Mayes proved it 45 years ago as the KC school district's first special education teacher

Lois Mayes watched too many children disappear from her kindergarten and first-grade classrooms in Kansas City.

That was in the middle of the past century, and the children were labeled "retarded" and "uneducable."

Children like Johnny.

"A unique child," she recalled. "He was the son of college teachers ..."

Mayes , 93, is long retired from the Kansas City School District. She has a struggling heart and infections that won't be treated anymore.

But 45 years ago, she was a pioneer in teaching children in Kansas City who were learning disabled.

"There were so many things I could see them do when I watched them play," she recalled from her Cass County home. "There were things I wanted to teach them."

Johnny was one of the children in some of the first classes she created in the early 1960s for children whom research was beginning to classify as learning disabled.

She was 48 and had been teaching kindergarten and first grade for more than two decades by then. Too many children were either sent away or were left in general classrooms in need of special attention.

Maybe they couldn't read a word, she said, but she could see them display other skills, the same as other children.

Her daughters, Carol Mann and Linda Derby, sat by her recently as she spoke from her bed. To help Mayes explain, they sifted through reports she wrote. They found some of her writings, her poetry. They found the list of universities where Mayes went to classes and seminars to learn the emerging vocation.

The Kansas City school district had no facilities or materials for teaching learning disabled children, Derby said.

"But they told her, If you can do it, go ahead, " she said.

"It was her own creation," Mann said.

The country was still more than a decade away from passing the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, which would become today's Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Now more than 3,500 students in the Kansas City School District receive special instruction, each with an Individualized Education Program.

But back then, it was just Mayes and the five or six children in her first class, her daughters recalled. She wore an apron with M&Ms in the pockets that she dispensed as rewards. She was all alone, and if any of her children or she had to use the restroom, the whole class had to line up in the hall.

"She had no lunch break," Derby said.

Mayes , hearing her daughters talk, remembered Johnny -- a boy with an intense awareness of details in his world, like the precise shadows on the playground. A boy who could add numbers up and down but couldn't read.

The boy's father had sought out Mayes and asked her to teach him, Mayes said.

She tried new ways every day, finding that she could teach him to read if she placed a piece of paper over the text, blocking all but a single line.

"She always said she hated to see him wasted," Derby said.

So many more students needed the special education, and soon Mayes teamed up with Betty Weimer, who would become the first director of a program Mayes said she dreamed up to recruit and train teachers. They called it Project Hold.

More than once, Mayes wrote poems about the teachers who joined their program. The daughters turned to one of the poems in a bound collection of Mayes writing.

... Who are they (the teachers in Project Hold)? What can they do? ...

Well, they

HOLD onto friendship for the strength it gives ... HOLD onto patience although sorely tempted ... HOLD the child to the hard path of learning ... HOLD a merry heart ...

Sarah Karl, 67, was one of the original six teachers recruited by Weimer and Mayes .

"I knew it was the thing to do," she said. "It was a chance to be a pioneer. You knew something good was going to come out of it all."

They were finding children who today might be classified as autistic. Many had developmental delays or emotional disturbances. Some learning disabilities came attached to hearing or vision problems.

But they could learn.

"Do you teach to their strengths? Do you try to work with their weaknesses? We didn't know," Karl said.

She remembers working with one child who had simply been unable to read.

"He seemed incapable of it," she said.

But then, out of the blue, one day he realized the letters under the pictures formed the words Karl was reading.

"He said, Those are the words we speak, aren't they? "

She remembers working with another child and how, after six months, he broke through and was able to write his name.

"He was so excited," she said. But it was hard for the teachers, being the pioneers. The first classes of pupils came from parents who were desperately seeking help. But as the program began to look for more children, the teachers waded into the fragile emotions of parents and the skepticism of teachers.

Some teachers didn't want the program's teachers in their classrooms testing their pupils.

Many parents were frightened and denied what the Project Hold teachers came to tell them. They didn't want to hear that their child might have a learning disability. There was too much of a stigma, she said. It was too personal.

"It was a huge challenge," Karl said. "There was resentment. To say that there was a problem with their child was to say there was a problem with them."

To remind themselves of the rewards, Karl said, all the Project Hold teachers kept another of Mayes poems.

... to teach a child whose steps stumble along the path of learning on obstacles that no one can see ... is like holding someone's hand who's afraid of the dark ... like living and loving and going places ... like you ve found a job worth doing ...

In the late 1980s, Mayes granddaughter, Rhonda Hamby, turned to Mayes poetry collection to fulfill a college course assignment and made an unexpected connection.

Before reciting her poem, Hamby was supposed to say something about its author.

But the professor interceded at the sound of Mayes name. Hamby had no idea that the professor, an older man teaching part-time at Longview Community College, was Johnny's father.

She didn't know that this professor knew her grandmother as the woman he turned to when no one else thought his son could learn, when all he heard was that the boy would need someone to care for him for the rest of his life.

The boy had grown up, become self-sufficient and worked on computer systems -- a story the professor told the class.

"He said, Let me tell you about Lois Mayes."

Published in the April 19, 2007 edition of the Kansas City (MO) STAR

On May 14 of 2007, the STAR published a followup to this story. Click here to read that article.

1920 United States Federal Census

Name: Lois V Derby
Age: 6
Birth Year: abt 1914
Birthplace: Oklahoma
Home in 1920: Oklahoma City Ward 4, Oklahoma, Oklahoma
Race: White
Gender: Female
Relation to Head of House: Daughter
Marital Status: Single
Father's Name: Lester Derby
Father's Birthplace: Illinois
Mother's Name: Alie Derby
Mother's Birthplace: Missouri
Neighbors: View others on page
Household Members: Name Age
Lester Derby 35
Alie Derby 33
Lois V Derby 6
Carolyn Derby 4
[4 2/12]
David Derby 2
[2 2/12]
Donald Derby 0

1930 United States Federal Census

Name: Lois Derby
Gender: Female
Birth Year: abt 1914
Birthplace: Oklahoma
Race: White
Home in 1930: Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri
View Map
Marital Status: Single
Relation to Head of House: Daughter
Father's Name: Lester E Derby
Father's Birthplace: Missouri
Mother's Name: Ollie M Derby
Mother's Birthplace: Illinois
Household Members: Name Age
Lester E Derby 45
Ollie M Derby 44
Lois Derby 16
Caroline Derby 14
David Derby 12

Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002

Name: Lois Virginia Derby
Age: 22
Birth Date: abt 1915
Marriage Date: 15 Jun 1937 [This was the date of the license; the marriage actually occurred on June 20.]
Marriage Location: Jackson, Missouri
Marriage County: Jackson
Spouse Name: Robert E Mayer [sic; should be Mayes]
Spouse Age: 28
Spouse Birth Date: abt 1909

Marriage Certificate

1940 United States Federal Census

Name: Louis B Mayes [This is Lois!]
Age: 26
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1914
Gender: Female
Race: White
Birthplace: Oklahoma
Marital Status: Married
Relation to Head of House: Wife
Home in 1940: Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri
View Map
Street: Bellefontaine
House Number: 71074
Inferred Residence in 1935: Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri
Residence in 1935: Same Place
Resident on farm in 1935: No
Sheet Number: 2A
Attended School or College: No
Highest Grade Completed: College, 4th year
Weeks Worked in 1939: 0
Income: 0
Income Other Sources: No
Neighbors: View others on page
Household Members: Name Age
Robert C Mayes 31
Louis B Mayes 26
Mary E Mayes 2/12

Social Security Death Index

Name: Lois Mayes
Last Residence: 64734 Cleveland, Cass, Missouri, United States of America
Born: 2 Dec 1913
Died: 26 Apr 2007
State (Year) SSN issued: Missouri (1956)

Click here to see the memorial for Lois's grandson Andrew Lampson. 
Family links: 
  Lester Edward Derby (1884 - 1949)
  Olie Munkres Derby (1886 - 1972)
  Robert Emmert Mayes (1908 - 1981)*
  Mary Ellen Mayes Masterson (1940 - 2006)*
  Lois Virginia Derby Mayes (1913 - 2007)
  Martha Carolyn Derby Phillippe (1915 - 2003)*
  David Lester Derby (1917 - 1952)*
  Donald Derby (1919 - 1925)*
*Calculated relationship
Floral Hills Cemetery
Kansas City
Jackson County
Missouri, USA
Plot: Garden of Meditation 28 - see photo captions for more information
Created by: Tom Nelson
Record added: Feb 01, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 104488369
Lois Virginia <i>Derby</i> Mayes
Added by: Tom Denardo
Lois Virginia <i>Derby</i> Mayes
Added by: Tom Denardo
Lois Virginia <i>Derby</i> Mayes
Added by: Tom Denardo
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