Local woman remembered as ‘full of life’
Elegance, style and grace exuded from Maxine White each Saturday evening as she twirled and twisted through ballroom dances around the Kansas City metropolitan area. She never had any lessons -- friends and family say she didn't need any -- and could "follow anybody."
"She loved to dance," said White's daughter, Sue Burrow. "She met most of her friends through dancing."
Whether it was dancing each weekend, cooking daily meals for her fellow employees at Suburban Water Company or working diligently at her many jobs, it's evident the late Maxine White of Basehor embodied the freedom and spirit of her era, the Greatest Generation.
"Max was always ready to go," said Ray Breuer, a Basehor resident and owner of Suburban Water Company, who along with his wife, Anne, were close friends to White. "You never had to wait on her."
"People would ask me how old she was," Anne Breuer said. "I'd say 'Oh, she's 87' and their mouths would just drop open because she didn't act that old or look that old."
Or as Sue said plainly, "She never sat still."
Margaret Maxine White, 87, fell to renal failure and died March 5, 2005, at the Tonganoxie Nursing Center. A recitation of the rosary is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Saturday at Holy Angels Catholic Church in Basehor. A funeral mass will follow at 10 a.m. She will be buried at Mount Cavalry Cemetery in Leavenworth. (See obituary, Page 8A.)
Sadly, kidney failure and later, a broken pelvis, robbed White of her ability to dance. After her health began to fail four months ago, she was no longer able to "dress up and go," as friends said, and it proved crushing.
"She was never able to go dancing after that," Anne said sadly. "She had trouble walking. If she got up out of bed it was pure torture."
"I think that's what she missed the most."
Although her last few months confined her, friends and family of White said that's not indicative of how she lived her life. After all, four months shouldn't negate a lifetime spent on the go, a lifetime spent searching for a fun adventure.
"She liked to do everything that was going somewhere," Sue said. "She liked to be out where people were.
"She was fun. . . She was just really a fun person."
White grew up in Basehor. Her father, Jack Kemler, owned a lumberyard, and mother, Babe, a grocery store in downtown Basehor and later a diner on Parallel Road called Babe's Bungalow.
Maxine, the couple's third child, learned from an early age a steady work ethic that followed her throughout life. She worked all manners of jobs -- bartender, waitress, cook and, for a stint, Las Vegas cocktail waitress -- and once held three at the same time.
After a divorce, White "worked all kinds of jobs to support two kids," Sue Burrow said. At the time, a divorced, working woman wasn't commonplace in society, but White debunked taboos and tackled the social myth with a fierce independence and determination to provide for her family on her own. In that regard, friends and family members say White was a woman ahead of her time.
For the last four or five years, White worked as a receptionist at Suburban Water Company in Basehor. Karen Moon worked with White and remembers "her quick wit, her stories from years ago and just her attitude for living . . .
"She could never sit still," Moon remembers with a chuckle. "She ran all the time."
Ray and Anne Breuer, themselves ballroom dancers, began a friendship with White 10 years ago and would often go to dinner and dances together. During the last several years "she was really part of the family," the couple said.
Not only was White a great dancer, the Breuers said, she was a wonderful cook that routinely prepared meals for anyone entering the Suburban Water Company offices with an appetite.
It wasn't unusual for 6 to 12 people to be eating dishes prepared by White throughout the week.
"Whoever came in," Ray said, "even some of the salesmen."
Anne Breuer said White didn't have a specialty dish for a simple reason -- anything she prepared was fantastic.
"She was good overall," she said. "She just liked to cook anything she could think of."
With her passing, White leaves behind a rich legacy for living to the fullest. Friends and family said they won't remember her any other way.
"I found her very interesting and a very intelligent person to talk to," Ray Breuer said. "She had a lot of just plain good common sense. She was a delight to be around.
"I know one thing, she'll be missed. You just don't find many people like that anymore who were full of life like she was."