Virginia Jennings Nadeau died peacefully on October 31, 2020 at the age of 85 in her home in Kansas City, Missouri. She was born in Independence, Missouri the daughter of Frank and Louise Jennings. A Missouri native through and through, she grew up on the corner of Waldo and Delaware in Independence, in a home now designated an historic site, close to friends President Harry S. Truman and his family. Since childhood she was a member of the Stone Church in Independence where her great-grandfather, John Robinson, was a founding member and pastor from 1892-1895.
Virginia attended Monticello College and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Fine Arts. She did graduate work at Parsons School of Design in New York. Using her talent for design, color collaboration, and flare, she was active in the community as a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (Allied) and National Historic Trust. Her interest in historic preservation led her to design projects such as the Seth Ward House, the Harry Truman Home, the Jackson County Court House, and The Mansion (home of the governor of Missouri).
In addition to her work in historic preservation, Virginia also enjoyed educating the next generation of artists and art lovers at William Chrisman High School in Independence, the Kansas City Art Institute, and the University of Central Missouri extension for adults.
Virginia’s parents founded Jennings Furniture Store in 1941 in Independence. In 1979, Virginia rebranded the store as Jennings Interiors, became the owner and President, and moved it to the Country Club Plaza. She was a well-known and sought-after interior designer who described her style as livable elegance; beauty combined with functionality to reflect each family member’s taste. She firmly believed “there’s no place like home” and worked with clients to create environments integrating the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of living. Her home in Kansas City’s Southmoreland neighborhood reflected these values and was featured on magazine covers and home tours.
She gained perspective through her love of international travel which began as a teenager. Her long-time friend, the late Laura Hockaday, said that, "in traveling with Virginia, you never knew where you would end up but, no matter, she could solve any conundrum through her creativity and grace.” Virginia and Laura were lifelong friends, along with a small group of special women, who shared many adventures and experiences together.
Her tenacity, perspective, and leadership skills were used throughout the Kansas City community. She was a President and board member of the Jackson County Historical Society, a twenty-five year docent at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and on the advisory boards of the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas and the Johnson County Community College Interior Design Department. She also was a co-chair of the Truman Library Institute’s annual benefit, Wild About Harry.
Her beloved husband, the late Richard Pierre Nadeau, was a therapist, art collector, and activist. Both Virginia and Richard believed in giving back to the community by fund raising for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and through active involvement in the Municipal Art Commission. In addition, they believed policy makers had direct impact on the well-being of all citizens and focused their resources on helping to elect decision makers concerned about improving the lives of those who lacked resources and power. As a result, Virginia and Richard were active in Democratic politics and fund raising for candidates who supported their vision for a better community for all, including many successful candidates for Kansas City Mayor, the Missouri Legislature, and the U.S. Congress. Richard’s outspokenness and Virginia’s elegance made them a powerful pair for over 30 years.
Virginia was preceded in death by her brother Frank Jennings, Jr., sister-in-law Myrna Dean, and nephew Paul Dean. She is survived by her sister-in-law Mrs. Roland Nadeau, cousin Fred Six (Lilian), nephew Daniel Nadeau and his daughters Isabella and Bailey, nephew Michael Nadeau (Amy) and son Roman, cousin Dr. Christopher Hersh (Carolyn) and children Demmi and Karr, cousin Dr. Jenny Hersh and daughter Addie, cousin Stephen Six (Betsy) and children Emily, Sam, Henry, and William, cousin Catherine Six Sallerson (Peter), niece Lori Dean, niece Linda Dean-Kennedy (Jim) and her children Jacob Summers and Stephanie Summers (Rocky) and daughter Evelyn, niece Dr. Melanie Dean (Dr. Patrick Handley) and children Lauren and Shea Handley, nephew Lester Dean, Jr. and daughter Spencer, and nephew Paul Dean’s children Jeremiah Dean (Cassie) and daughters Bella and Lynk, Keena Dean (Jim Masters), and A.J. Dean (Miranda) and son Able.
A public visitation will be held at the Carson-Speaks Funeral home on Lexington Avenue in Independence on Friday, Nov. 20th, between 6 and 8pm. A funeral service for family members only will be held at the Carson-Speaks Funeral Home Chapel on Saturday, Nov. 21st, at 1:30pm followed by internment at Mound Grove Cemetery in Independence. Masks will be required at all events and social distancing guidelines will be observed. A public celebration of Virginia’s life will be held in the late Spring of 2021 where all friends will be invited and where there will be outdoor space available to enable social distancing. The family requests donations in lieu of flowers, which may be made to the Jackson County Historical Society, the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and the Truman Library Institute. Online condolences and memories may be left for the family at www.speakschapel.com (Arrangements: Carson-Speaks Chapel 816-252-7900)
Virginia Jennings Nadeau Part 1
Virginia Jennings Nadeau Part 2