Manuel B. "Manny" Mendoza passed away on Thursday, June 25, 2015, at the age of 84, after a brief final illness. Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at St. Andrews Catholic Church with Father Andrew Heiman officiating. The Rosary will be recited at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the church prior to Mass. Burial will follow in Calvary Cemetery in Independence. A celebration of life will be held at a later date in Bloomington, Illinois. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Independence Kansas Public Library, 220 East Maple Independence, KS 67301 where Manny recalled spending many long, but happy, hours studying as a young man, or to the McLean County Historical Society 200 North Main Street Bloomington, Illinois 61701 and memorials may be left with the Chapel.
Manny was born in Independence, Kansas, on August 28, 1930, the son of Antonio P. and Francisca Mendoza. Manny attended Independence High School, where he played football and was the first Mexican-American co-captain of the football team. He graduated in 1950, and then attended Independence Junior College, graduating in 1952. He attended Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, where he was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, and again played football on the defensive and offensive lines. Manny graduated from Baker in 1954 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and decided to attend law school to further his education. It was at Baker University that he met Margot de Leon, a native of Kansas City, Kansas. He married Margot, his college sweetheart, on June 2, 1956, and they were married for 59 years. He graduated from Washburn University School of Law in 1957 with a Juris Doctor degree. He was the first Mexican-American to graduate from Washburn Law School. While he was in law school, Manny served in the Army Reserves, eventually rising to the rank of Platoon Sergeant (E-7). He also worked at Topeka State Hospital, often leaving work on the night shift to arrive just in time for his 8:00 a.m. law school classes.
After graduation from law school, Manny passed the Kansas bar exam and was admitted to practice before the Kansas Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas in 1958. He began working for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company in 1958 as a Field Claim Representative in Wichita, Kansas. He was promoted into management as a Claim Superintendent in the St. Louis area in 1964. His next promotion would take him back to Kansas to Shawnee Mission in 1969, where he served as a Divisional Claim Superintendent. Because of his legal background, in 1973 he was selected for promotion to General Claim Superintendent in the corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois. His last promotion was to Senior Counsel in 1985, and he spent the remainder of his career at State Farm's corporate headquarters, retiring in 2001 after 43 years with State Farm.
After retiring, Manny stayed in Bloomington, Illinois, where he remained active with travel, community efforts, and academia. Manny strongly believed in the value of education and protecting the rights of others. To this end, he accepted an appointment from the Prairie Pride Coalition to serve as their representative on the McLean County, Illinois, Jail Review Committee in an oversight role, was a member of the ACLU, and was on the McLean County AIDS Task Force. He served on the Washburn Law School Board of Governors for three terms, was a member of the Baker University President's Advisory Council, and established scholarships at both schools to help Mexican-American students. Manny was also a Lifetime member of the Kansas Bar Association. Manny's strong commitment to Baker University led to the family's selection as the Baker Family of the Year in 2005. He also found time to travel across the United States and Europe, visiting places he first learned about while attending Baker University. Manny's interest in history and the arts led him to a life membership in both the McLean County Historical Society and the McLean County Art Association. Manny remained an avid reader of the news, especially politics and sports, and enjoyed engaging in debate about the issues of the day. He also enjoyed tending his garden, and keeping up with his family and friends from State Farm. In his retirement, Manny also found time to spoil his daughter Noëlle's puppy, Muffe, with treats.
Manny is survived by his beloved wife, Margot Mendoza, his daughters Noëlle Mendoza, Bloomington, IL, and Lisa Mendoza, Topeka, KS, his son, Marcos Mendoza, and daughter-in-law, Celina Mendoza, Austin, TX, as well as many relatives and friends. He was the last surviving child of Antonio and Francisca Mendoza, who, along with 15 brothers and sisters, preceded him in death. He will be greatly missed.
The family would especially like to thank Dr. Patrick Gomez of Bloomington, Illinois, and his staff, for the kind care and successful treatment Manny received for lymphoma. They would also like to thank Dr. Jaydev Jani of Bloomington, Illinois, and his staff for their kind care and treatment.