Her better half, Neal Patterson, kicked the bucket in July from entanglements that emerged after “a current repeat of a formerly revealed tumor.”
A notice about her passing was posted on the establishment’s site:
We are heartbroken to share the news of Jeanne Lillig-Patterson’s passing. Today, September 4, she passed to the hands of her Lord, joining her beloved husband Neal Patterson. Jeanne lived an extraordinarily generous life as a devout Catholic who loved her family and friends dearly.
As Cerner’s seventh associate (007), Jeanne had a determination and sharp wit that carried her through the company’s early years. Neal once joked that she had more jobs than any single person at Cerner. Above all, Jeanne was overwhelmingly kind-hearted, and Neal appropriately described her as the “Soul of Cerner.”
To no one’s surprise, in 1995, Jeanne co-founded First Hand Foundation, providing Cerner associates another way to make a difference in the world of health care, to help patients in ways that software couldn’t. She led by example, teaching others why it was their responsibility to give back and showing the impact they would make by doing so.
Jeanne never backed down from the complex – and filling the gaps in health care for children around the world is just that. She felt nothing was impossible and often told First Hand associates to “just go do it” or “just fix it,” with her own fiery passion. “Because,” Jeanne said, “it’s the right thing to do.” She was always a fighter – and impatient and outspoken, just like her husband. She fought tirelessly for children and families who could not access the health and care they deserved and did so while bravely fighting her own long battle with cancer. During that battle, she never complained…she taught us how to live.
Jeanne wanted to do more for the children in Kansas City, Cerner’s own backyard, and that led to the creation of our health screenings program that now serves 21% of elementary schools in the KC metro area. Through this program, on average, 44% of children screened need additional testing or care, and, of course, Jeanne found a way to connect those dots as well.
Later, she developed the concept for our Love Bag program to comfort foster children who are going through transition and facing difficult circumstances. She didn’t want them or the foster parents to experience that tough situation again. Jeanne also saw an opportunity to enhance how teenagers learn to make healthy lifestyle choices. This inspired the creation of an experiential health curriculum for students that now serves 29% of the high schools in the KC metro area.
As a parishioner of St. Sabina Catholic Church, Jeanne knew Cerner’s population health efforts could help her own community. She saw families who did not have access to wellness screenings, fitness classes or knowledge about how to live a healthy life. Jeanne championed a replicable wellness center model, serving the entire parish, that teaches healthy lifestyle habits for the whole family. The amazing number of children, teenagers and families that have changed their health destiny for the better is a testament to the power of Jeanne’s vision!
The case grants program remains the heart of First Hand, changing lives one child at a time. As Jeanne often noted, “children are our future, and we must take care of them.” She focused on direct giving and making the biggest impact possible, and her unique model and brilliant vision continue to guide the foundation.
Every year at the annual golf tournament, she introduced each recipient child and family at the awards banquet. Through the generosity of those in attendance – golfers and sponsors – these remarkable tragedy-turned-triumph stories are possible. Something magical happened on those days as Jeanne’s spontaneity took over – she shared their stories, leaving not a dry eye in the crowd. That was her time to shine, and Neal always said she was the star who needed to be on stage.
While her battle with cancer has ended, Jeanne’s giving spirit lives on in Cerner and First Hand. You can see it in the smiles, hear it in the laughter and feel it in the hugs from each and every child and parent who come in contact with the foundation.
She did ALL of this in 59 years – a life cut short by anyone’s estimation. Jeanne never wasted one moment, and she knew she had a lot to accomplish! What began with only one story – one child’s life changed – in 1995, has grown to more than 300,000 stories and lives changed from 93 countries around the world.
We will carry on with Jeanne’s dreams and continue to make a difference. Jeanne woke up every day thanking God for her life, noting that “what makes you happy is supporting other people and creating a better world.”
She did exactly that – created a better world. So, Jeanne, we can say because of you, we’ve been changed for the better. Because we knew you, we’ve been changed for good. The best way for us to honor you is to go change the world.
Please keep the Patterson and Lillig families and friends in your prayers. If you would like to donate to First Hand, we have created a Jeanne Lillig-Patterson Memorial Fund in her honor.
Melissa B. Frerking
Vice President and Executive Director, First Hand Foundation