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1925 Nell 2020

Nell Updegraff

September 9, 1925 — October 26, 2020

Nell Ragan Updegraff, age 95, went to be with the Lord on October 26, 2020 surrounded by her family. Nell was born September 9, 1925, in Sigourney, Iowa, the daughter of Wesley Ward and Ruby (Noller) Ragan. Nell was raised during her early years on the family farm, the Ragan North Star Farm, located south of Sigourney along the North Skunk River in Lancaster Township. The farm has been in Nell's family for more than 100 years and she took great pride in being a "farm girl". Nell attended school at the Lancaster School, a small country school house built in 1881. She used to tell how her Father would walk her to school through the fields; and when it snowed, he would hitch up the team to the sleigh and they would ride in the sleigh to school, sleigh bells and all.

The family continued to farm, but moved to town where Nell attended Sigourney High School, graduating in 1944. After high school, Nell attended Grinnell College in Grinnell Iowa, where she studied accounting and business, and was a cheerleader. She returned to Sigourney and helped at the family's lumber yard, Ragan Lumber Company in Hayesville, Iowa, as a teller at the Hayesville Savings Bank.

In 1951, Nell married John T. Updegraff. They moved to Iowa City where John attended Iowa University Law School. Nell worked as an assistant cashier, teller and trust officer at one of the city's banks.

In 1954, Nell and John returned to Sigourney, where John practiced law with his father and brother and Nell worked at the bank. Nell and John started their family with the birth of their first son, John, Jr. born in 1955. In 1957, Nell and John moved to Chicago where their second son, Mark, was born. In 1962, the couple moved to Kansas City, where John went to work for Sinclair Oil Company and then in 1965 moved to Independence. In 1971, the couple moved to Texas, first to Richardson and then to Houston, returning to Independence in 1975.

Nell was active in many church, social and civic groups. In 1944, Nell was initiated as a member of P.E.O., a philanthropic organization passionate about helping women advance through education, while supporting and motivating them. Nell organized several local P.E.O. chapters and served as President of her local Chapter D.A. in Independence; and she also served as P.E.O. Kansas State President and was a member of the P.E.O. Past Presidents Officer's Club. Nell was also very active in her church, First United Methodist, Independence serving on many committees, and twice served as President of United Methodist Women. When the Board of Trustees decided to relocate the Ladies Parlor, Nell was very involved in the design, construction and decorating. She insisted that the new parlor had to have a fireplace, as the original parlor had one. At first she was told that it could not be done, but where there is a will there is a way, and Nell worked with and convinced the architect and trustees to make it happen. So if you are ever sitting by the fireplace in Gault Hall, you have Nell to thank! Nell was also appointed by the Mayor of Independence to serve on the Independence Public Library Board of Trustees and served on the Mercy Hospital Foundation Board, and the William Inge Festival Committee. She was also Treasurer of the Independent Unlimited Investment Club, President of the Contemporary Study Club three times, a Patron of the Independence Historical Museum and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and The Order of the Eastern Star.

Nell was a loving and caring spouse, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and friend.  She was loved beyond measure.  She will be dearly missed and forever in our hearts.  Her legacy will continue to live on through her children and grandchildren.

Nell was preceded in death by her parents, her sister, Phyllis Ann Gregory; and her son, Mark Ragan Updegraff. She is survived by her husband John of 69 years, her son John T. Updegraff, Jr. and daughter-in-law Peggy S. Updegraff, her grandchildren Megan E. Updegraff, J.T. Updegraff and his wife Tracy, and Curtis M. Updegraff and his wife Marena, Amanda Massena, Derek Massena, Ragan Updegraff, Kevin Updegraff and two great grandchildren, all of Arlington, Texas, except Derek who travels the mountains and wilderness in search of adventure.

A memorial graveside celebration of life will be held at Mount Hope Cemetery in Independence on Thursday, November 5, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. with Dr. Dyton Owen of the First United Methodist Church officiating under the direction of the Webb & Rodrick Chapel. A book signing will be held on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at Webb and Rodrick Chapel from 10:00am to 5:00pm.  Memorial donations may be made in the memory of Nell to the First United Methodist Church, 200 South Pennsylvania Ave, Independence, Kansas or P.E.O's Cottey College, Attention: IA Office, 1000 Austin Blvd., Nevada, MO.  Friends may leave online condolences at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Nell Updegraff, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Book Signing

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

10:00am - 5:00 pm (Central time)

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Celebration of Life

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

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