Jeanne Lillig-Patterson — a 2004 candidate for Congress, co-founder of First Hand Foundation, and wife of the late Neal Patterson, a Cerner co-founder and its CEO — died Monday at the age of 59.
Her death comes less than two months after her husband’s, who died in early July at age 67.
The First Hand Foundation aims to provide access to health care to children in the U.S. and in other countries. A post on the site on Monday by Melissa B. Frerking, vice president and executive director, mourned Lillig-Patterson’s passing and remembered her efforts to help children.
“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,’” Frerking wrote. “While her battle with cancer has ended, Jeanne’s giving spirit lives on in Cerner and First Hand.”
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The foundation reached more than 300,000 children from 93 countries around the world since it began in 1995, Frerking added.
Cliff Illig, Cerner’s interim CEO, co-founder and chairman of Cerner, wrote a personal sentiment from he and his wife.
“Bonne and I and the entire Cerner team are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend Jeanne Lillig-Patterson,” Illig wrote. “Jeanne’s generosity with her time, energy and service to others is a testament to the heart she brought to all she was involved in. Her compassion was most evident with First Hand Foundation … Neal often called her the ‘Soul of Cerner’ because of the breadth of her impact on the company. She was one of our earliest associates, and her significant contributions continue to be felt across Cerner.”
Tributes also came via Twitter.
April Rose Martin wrote: “Jeanne Lillig Patterson passed away today after 10 years of demonstrating strength, grace & courage in living with metastatic breast cancer.”
Dick Flanigan posted: “The @Cerner community mourns the loss of the Soul of Cerner Jeanne Patterson. Prayers for the Patterson Family. We will miss you Jeanne!”
Lillig-Patterson ran as the Republican candidate for Congress in 2004, but she was defeated in the general election by former Kansas City mayor Emanuel Cleaver, who ran as a Democrat and continues to hold the seat.
Lillig-Patterson long battled breast, bone and brain cancer, according to a 2014 story in The Star.
In 2017, Lillig-Patterson was awarded an honorary doctorate from Avila University for what the university at the time described as “individuals that have demonstrated outstanding service and leadership to humanity, outstanding service to their community, outstanding contributions to education and those who embody the values of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.”
Avila described Lillig-Patterson as the seventh person hired by the medical software company Patterson, Group, Illig & Associates in 1981. She was credited with helping rename the company Cerner in 1984 and originated the roles of director of marketing and director of client services.
Lillig-Patterson was also credited with initiating the building of Cerner’s onsite daycare, preschool and fitness facility. She also had been active in St. Sabina Church and served on numerous nonprofit boards and committees that included the Ronald McDonald House, Avila University, Bishop Hogan High School, Heartland Therapeutic Riding Academy, the American Royal, Jewel Ball and BOTAR Ball.
Lillig-Patterson was credited by Avila at the time for being passionate about arts and education, serving on Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education and the advisory board for the Kauffman Foundation’s Kauffman Scholars program.
The Pattersons had been married nearly 30 years before his death. They had two children together, Cortney and Will Patterson, as well as children Clay Patterson and Lindsey Patterson Smith from Neal Patterson’s prior marriage.