Jessie Marie Cassidy Branson 1920 - 2009 Lawrence
Memorial services for Jessie Marie Cassidy Branson, 88, Lawrence, will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at Trinity Episcopal Church. Burial will be in the Trinity Church Columbarium.Mrs. Branson died Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009, at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor. She was born on Dec. 21, 1920, in Cummings, the daughter of Joseph E. and Sophia Yost Cassidy. She graduated from Atchison County Community High School in Effingham. She attended Kansas State University and transferred to the Kansas University School of Nursing.She had worked for one year as a floor duty nurse in Santa Barbara, Calif. While her husband was in the service during World War II, she worked at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., as a critical care nurse, which she continued after the war.The family moved to Beatrice, Neb., in 1949, and to Lawrence in 1955. Mrs. Branson soon became active in community volunteer work. She helped organize the Douglas County Association for Retarded Citizens, serving as president and later as president of the Kansas Association for Retarded Citizens. She was editor of TRACKS, the KARC newsletter.For 25 years, she served as a volunteer nurse with the Douglas County Red Cross. She also served as the chair of the Residential Drive for the Lawrence United Fund. During the 1960s she was appointed to Gov. Robert Docking’s Commission on Mental Health and Mental Retardation and to the Kansas Council on Health Planning.She played the cello, piano and harpsichord. In 1972, she founded the Lawrence Chamber Players, now the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra, and for eight years served as the volunteer manager.Also in the 1970s, she co-founded Kansans for the Improvement of Nursing Homes, now Kansas Advocates for Better Care. She and Petey Cerf traveled the state as volunteers, monitoring and assessing nursing homes. Mrs. Branson documented and presented their findings to state legislative committees. In 1977, Gov. Robert Bennett appointed Mrs. Branson and Mrs. Cerf to the Governor’s Committee on Nursing Homes.In 1980, at age 60, Mrs. Branson ran for and won the Kansas House of Representatives’ newly created 44th District seat, which she held for 10 years. Her legislative work focused on the areas of mental health, medical indigence, health planning, special education, protection of children, and services for those with developmental disabilities.In 1981 Mrs. Branson helped organize Warm Hearts, a group that helps people pay their heating bills, and served on its board. She also served on advisory boards to the KU Schools of Nursing and Social Welfare and the board of Douglas County Senior Services, on the Executive Committee of the Haskell Foundation, and as a mentor for Leadership Lawrence.She was active in the Lawrence Preservation Alliance and volunteered for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, working as project coordinator for the mounting of 27 bronze plaques on historic buildings in downtown Lawrence. Mrs. Branson received many awards during her lifetime. Among them, she was named the 1994 Paul Harris Fellow by the Lawrence Rotary Club, having been one of the first two women to become members after the United States Supreme Court decision that women are eligible for membership in service clubs. She received the 1997 Citizen of the Years Award given by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. She was the 2007 recipient of the Helen Fluker Award, given by the Lawrence-Douglas County League of Women Voters; the 2005 recipient of the Friend of Haskell Award, given by Haskell Indian Nations University; and the 1998 recipient of the Baker University Partners in Progress Civic Service Award.She was a member of the Trinity Episcopal Church. She married Dr. Vernon Branson on April 24, 1942. He preceded her in death on June 19, 2006. Survivors include three daughters, Johanna Branson and husband Jock Gill, Medford, Mass., Martha Berger and husband William, Wauwatosa, Wis., and Rosemary Jones and husband Randall, Lee’s Summit, Mo.; a son, Samuel Branson, Lawrence; a brother, Dr. Joseph Cassidy, Topeka; and eight grandchildren, Amanda, Rosemary and Sophia Branson-Gill, Roseanna and Henry Berger, and Peter, Hannah and Daniel Jones.The family suggests memorials to Trinity Episcopal Church or Cottonwood Inc., sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary.Online condolences may be sent at warrenmcelwain. com, subject: Branson.