Cover photo for Lavonne Jill Shinn's Obituary
Lavonne Jill Shinn Profile Photo
1929 Lavonne Jill Shinn 2023

Lavonne Jill Shinn

August 15, 1929 — July 1, 2023


LaVonne Jill Shinn, 93, of Kahoka, passed away at 2:50 am on Saturday, July 1, 2023, at the Southeast Iowa Regional Home Health and Hospice in West Burlington, Iowa.


She was born on August 15, 1929, in Fairfield, Iowa, the daughter of the late Harold Kenneth Leathers & Leantha Elizabeth (Rice) Dawkins & Gerald “Whitey” Dawkins, who raised her. Jill was a graduate of Kirksville High School and later went on to attend Northeast Missouri State Teacher’s College (now known as Truman State University). She married Robert James Lapsley in 1950. Later in life, their marriage ended, and Jill married Paul Kenneth Shinn in 1972 and later divorced.


Jill was a faithful advocate for the economically disadvantaged and is remembered for her unwavering commitment and influential contributions to social justice for well over 50 years.  Jill was often the only rural voice in the many organizations she participated in.  After a life-altering divorce left her as a single mother, she was led down a path that would see her become a pillar of strength and voice for low-income individuals.


Jill first became a social services advocate when one of her daughters attended Head Start. Before long, she was involved in the State Policy Council for Head Start and the Northeast Missouri Community Action Agency.  In the late 1970s, Jill was instrumental in the introduction of the Legal Services Program (formerly Legal Aid) to northeast Missouri, leading to the establishment of Northeast Missouri Legal Services. She was on the founding board, devoting 34 years of service, including two terms as President. Her efforts marked a significant milestone in Missouri's journey to accessible legal aid.  Jill was honored with the Edna L. Taylor Award for Client Services. She set a precedent as the first recipient in history to receive the award twice. 


She volunteered as a Community Representative through the Northeast Missouri Clients Council for Human Needs.  In 1988, she was nominated and selected for the board of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ) in New York City, attending meetings there quarterly.  She served on this board until 2020, a perfect retirement age of 90 years.  The Center has led the way nationally in promoting economic justice, fairness and opportunity for those in need; securing systemic reform in the delivery of income support and related human services; and safe-guarding important legal and constitutional rights.


In 2008, she received the Special Recognition for Board Service Award for her service on the NCLEJ board, standing amongst distinguished recipients such as then Newark Mayor and now New Jersey Senator Cory A. Booker, NBC Universal's Richard Cotton, and Tennessee Justice Center Executive Director Gordon Bonnyman. NCLEJ's Executive Director Henry Freedman recognized Jill's invaluable contributions, praising her for her insights into rural American issues and the indispensable local knowledge she brought to their work. Freedman acknowledged her effectiveness in drawing attention to the state of Missouri's violations of federal law regarding Medicaid, a clear demonstration of her undying commitment to uphold fairness and justice for all.


Jill received the Liberty Bell Award from the Young Lawyers Section of the Missouri Bar Association, an award for a non-lawyer who has enhanced the legal system and expanded justice.  Jill also received the Outstanding Member Award from the Missouri Association for Social Welfare. In addition, Jill volunteered at several local events and organizations in the Kahoka community.  She served as treasurer on the board of the Clark County Historical Society.


Jill leaves behind a legacy of impactful change and tireless advocacy. Her commitment to justice, resilience in the face of adversity, and dedication to service made her a true champion for people in poverty. Her memory continues to inspire and will forever be cherished by all those touched by her work.


A dedicated admirer of Elvis Presley, Jill initiated the Elvis Heart of Gold Fan Club and frequently journeyed to Graceland for Elvis Week, an annual commemoration of the legend's life and legacy. Her passion was so pronounced that an Elvis impersonator made a special appearance at her 85th birthday, much to her delight! Alongside her love for Elvis, Jill also had an affinity for coin and stamp collecting. She would spend countless hours meticulously organizing her collection, even saving stamps from personal letters and cards to add a unique touch to her assortment.


Creativity was at the core of Jill’s personal life. An expert seamstress, she was renowned for her ability to craft elaborate garments ranging from wedding dresses to prom dresses. Her talents were sparked from mere pictures or verbal descriptions, manifesting themselves into tangible tokens of her skills. Jill's reputation extended beyond creating new garments, as she was the local "go to" for any mending needs, whether it be hems, zippers, or alterations.


A keen traveler, she cherished her trips across the country to visit her children, finding joy in the simple pleasure of spending time with her loved ones. NYC held a special place in her heart, being the city where she not only contributed to national advocacy work but also enjoyed its vibrancy and energy. Hawaii was a dream destination that remained on her bucket list, reflecting her love for adventure and discovery.


A doting grandmother, Jill took great pride in her grandchildren's accomplishments. She cultivated a tradition of clipping newspaper articles highlighting their academic, athletic, and creative successes. In her later years, she took to knitting, an activity she enjoyed until her dexterity and vision became challenges. Yet, this never dampened her spirit or her desire to create and bring joy to others. Jill's influence extended to her own family, where she instilled a strong work ethic in her children. From a young age, her children contributed to the household through various chores and jobs, ranging from delivering newspapers and babysitting to mowing lawns and shoveling snow. This commitment to supporting the family reflected the values she cherished and aimed to pass on: resilience, dedication, and the joy of hard work. In Jill Shinn's memory, we celebrate a woman who not only fought for social justice but also nurtured a home filled with love, creativity, and strength. Her legacy will forever be remembered in the hearts of those she touched, both in her community and within her family.


Jill is survived by her children; Robert Martin Lapsley (Pat), Wooster, OH, Paul Kent Lapsley, West Palm Beach, FL, Thomas Brent Lapsley (Cheryle), Tomball, TX, Anne Elizabeth Lapsley, Houston, TX, Karen Sue Lapsley-Owens, Houston, TX, James Alan Lapsley, Houston, TX, John David Lapsley (Molly), Kahoka, MO, Carol Elaine Lapsley, Houston, TX, Joseph Anthony Lapsley, Houston, TX, Shirley Jean Lapsley Holcomb (Jack), Anna, TX, Frederick Wayne Shinn, Wayland, MO, Darla Marie Shinn, Cozumel, QR, Mexico; 26 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren and a half sister; Barbara Downey, Santa Barbara, CA.


In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by a daughter; Martha Ellen Lapsley, a granddaughter; Sydney JoAnne Owens, two brothers; Richard & Gary Dawkins, half siblings; Bruce & Pam Leathers, an uncle; Paul Rice and by several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.


Funeral services honoring Jill’s life will be conducted at 11:00 am on Saturday, July 8, 2023, at the Wilson & Triplett Funeral Home of Kahoka. Pastor Shawn McAfee will officiate. Interment will follow at the Queen City Cemetery in Queen City immediately following the service. Visitation will be held from 5:00 until 7:00 pm on Friday, July 7, 2023, at the funeral home. Memorial contributions in memory of Jill are suggested to the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, Donate to NCLEJ ( You are invited to share your memories of Jill and leave a condolence at 


This event will be live streamed: 

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, July 7, 2023

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

Wilson & Triplett Funeral Home

975 E Main St, Kahoka, MO 63445

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

Wilson & Triplett Funeral Home

975 E Main St, Kahoka, MO 63445

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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