Mary Shaw Branton, known by many in Kansas City by her childhood nickname, “Shawsie,” was only 26 years old when she helped found a school for children with disabilities that is now called Children’s TLC.
That was in 1947. Since then, the Children’s Therapeutic Learning Center has changed and grown, and Branton became well known as a volunteer and a board member of dozens of local organizations, including Children’s Mercy Hospital, Planned Parenthood and the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
On Monday, Branton died. She was 95.
Branton’s work in the community was driven by a simple desire to give what she could to those in need, said her daughter Page Reed.
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“What she would say was ‘It’s not what you have, it’s what you do,’ ” Reed said. “She did it because she saw there was a need, and it was what you should do.”
Born in Kansas City and raised in Independence, Branton was a friend of former president Truman’s daughter Margaret Truman Daniel. She graduated from the Sunset Hill School and the University of Missouri.
An early lesson in giving came from Branton’s grandfather, who had been Jackson County sheriff and a pharmacist in Independence. According to family lore, he left behind at the pharmacy a list of customers with payments due and a note that read “Forgive them all.”
In 2011, Branton was the oldest-ever recipient of the Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award from the Association of Junior Leagues International, a women’s volunteer organization. In a video produced by the association, Branton credited her upbringing with teaching her to help others.
“I learned from my parents that if there is a need, fill it,” she said.
In turn, Branton’s example has inspired others for decades, said David Hunt, chairman of the board at Children’s TLC.
“With Shawsie, it was always about everybody else,” Hunt said. “She set a standard, and we took that as gospel.
“Because she was who she was, it wasn’t just a single generation that was affected by her, but it’s been two or three generations down.”
Branton was married in 1947 to William Coleman Branton, a lawyer and banker, who died in 1985.
She is survived by two daughters, Reed and Leslie Hoffecker, and four grandchildren.
A celebration of her life will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St.