We wanted to take a moment on this final day of 2013 to remember a few of the notable northeast Johnson Countians that we lost in 2013.
Jesse DunnaganPrairie Village resident Jesse Dunnagan saw firsthand the terror that prompted the United States to enter World War II as the gun director for the broadside guns on the USS California during the Pearl Harbor attack. When bombers hit the ship, Dunnagan was forced into the water, where he had to navigate flaming pools of oil as he swam to safety on Ford Island. In 2011 — the 40th anniversary of the attack — Prairie Village declared Dec. 7 “Jesse Dunnagan Day.” Dunnagan was 92.
Irene FrenchIrene French’s civic leadership both in elected roles in the city of Merriam and through the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce made her a pillar of the community for decades. She was first elected to the Merriam City Council in 1973, and served as a councilor until 1981 when she was elected mayor, an office she held until 2002. French also served as president of the League of Kansas Municipalities and as interim president/CEO of the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce. She wrote a book about her beloved city, “Historic Merriam.” She was 86.
Neale “Pete” Peterson, the longtime Fairway mayor and namesake of the city’s park, died Nov. 20. Peterson was first elected to the Fairway City Council in 1953, and went on to serve as mayor for more than 30 years. Among his many accomplishments in office was the construction of the city’s pool.
Alan RothAlan Roth served as mayor of Westwood Hills for 14 years. During his long involvement with public service, he also served as chairman of the Shawnee Indian Mission Foundation and as a member of the Johnson County Transportation Council and Mid-America Regional Council Total Transportation Council. Professionally, Roth was an architect whose portfolio included work on the Missouri Court of Appeals, the United Missouri Bank headquarters and the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri.
Fred White, the popular broadcaster known for years as one of the voices of the Kansas City Royals, died in May, just a day after announcing his official retirement from the club. White was a longtime northeast Johnson County resident, and a not-uncommon site at local stores and restaurants. In addition to his play-by-play duties for the Royals, he also broadcast NFL, NBA and NCAA games, including seven Final Fours.