Manheim Park Neighborhood Celebrates Its Grandmothers With Mural In Their Honor

Mar 20, 2016

No one holds a family together quite like a grandma, and through good times and bad, the matriarchs of the Manheim Park neighborhood in Kansas City have remained steady.

Residents of Manheim Park dedicated a large new mural on Saturday to four women who have been committed to the community for decades.

Doug Shafer, vice president of the Manheim Park Neighborhood Association, described the community's grandmothers as "the most important social glue."

The mural, painted on one side of the Saint Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on Troost near 39th street, depicts the faces of Lucielle Leapheart, Arissa Keli-Logan, Arvern Hughes and Dorothy Hawkins flanking a portrait of St. Vincent De Paul. 

Kansas City artist Alexander Austin, the mural's painter, compared the women to his own mother, who had 35 grandkids.

Larry Thompson stands in front of the portrait of his neighbor, Arvern Hughes, whom he calls the 'neighborhood historian.'
Credit Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Larry Thompson, a member of  the Manheim Park neighborhood association, called his neighbor Arvern Hughes the "neighborhood historian."

He says it’s hard to put into words what these women have meant to the community.

“Gosh, they have done so much…with our neighborhood being a neighborhood in transition, it’s been so important to have someone who is aware of the history and has seen the neighborhood go through the changes both good and bad… they’ve seen the neighborhood go and grow," Hughes said.

Arissa Keli-Logan has lived in Manheim for 16 years and loves to prepare lunch in the park for the neighborhood kids during their summer programs.

"We're a good community, neighbors helping neighbors. I love it," Kelli-Logan says. 

Longtime Manheim Park residents Lucielle and Morris Leapheart stand in front Lucille's likeness, which is painted on one side of St. Vincent de Paul thrift store.
Credit Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Morris Leapheart, whose wife Lucielle’s face now looks out onto Troost Avenue, feels proud of his partner.

“It makes me feel good that someone I’m that close to and love so dearly is one of the honorees,” he said.

As she looked up at her likeness, Lucielle Leapheart smiled.

"You know it really doesn't look like me, not that I look any better," Leapheart says. "Something about it that my features are too big, but that's OK, I'll take it." 

She recounts when she first moved to the Manheim neighborhood and wandered into a Baptist church nearby.

"I didn't see anybody in there [who was] black," Leapheart says.

She asked a women inside whether she should leave and was told she was welcome to stay, even though no black person had ever been there before. 

"I said, 'I'm gonna stay because I don't feel like walking back home.'  And so I integrated that church down there and I feel so good about it because it is prospering and  its been a place for people in the neighborhood to go to."

That was more than 40 years ago. She and her husband, Morris, plan on staying in Manheim Park another 40 years. 

Lisa Rodriguez is the associate producer for KCUR's Up To Date. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.