Editor’s note: This feature is part of a weekly focus from The Star meant to highlight and remember the lives of Black Kansas Citians who have died.
From cars to cabinets and upholstered furniture, Adee Block was known for his ability to design, build and repair anything.
He built his business, Block Upholstery in Kansas City, Kansas, from the ground up. He created and sold unique furniture across the metro.
“He was always creative and could fix a lot. He had the handy gene,” Bryan Block, his son, said.
Adee Block died on Sept. 3 at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. He was 76 years old.
Family said Block’s work ethic was one of a kind — and he could never sit still.
“I was in middle school and I left the house like I would any morning. I came back home and we had a whole new room built onto the house that he had built by himself,” Blocks daughter, Angel Block Canady, said. “That is one of my all-time favorite memories,” she added.
Affectionately known as “Sonny,” Block was born to A.D. and Armedia Block on Jan. 26, 1945, in Prescott, Arkansas. He attended public school in Arkansas, and later, when he and his family moved to Kansas City, Kansas, he attended Sumner High School. He graduated in 1964.
“He was proud to say he graduated from Sumner,” Bryan said.
After high school, Block married Margaret Webb Block, and they had three children: Deadra, Bryan, and Sheryl. He later remarried Janet Maddox Block who had two sons, Rudolph Thompson II and Kurt Thompson. Together, Adee and Janet had one daughter, Angel.
Block’s children say he lived a life of service throughout his community as well as his country. He served in the United States Army and was honorably discharged. Later, he began a career working in law enforcement as a police officer.
“He enjoyed police work. Serving the community and law enforcement is one of the things he did for most of working life,” Bryan said.
Family said Block worked for a number of law enforcement organizations, including the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, University of Kansas Medical Center public safety, the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Police.
While serving others was natural for Block, so was entrepreneurship. In addition to Block Upholstery, he also bought and sold real estate, repaired and resold homes. He also maintained several rental properties.
“He passed down entrepreneurship to me,” Angel, his daughter, said.
When Block wasn’t working, family said that he could often be found relaxing on his porch listening to music.
Bryan said his father loved to play the harmonica, drums and guitar.
Block also loved to fish, dance and socialize with his family and friends.
“He was always about his family,” his sonsaid.
He was into sports, too.
“He and one of our uncles played pool like clock-work,” Angel said. “That’s how we always knew it was a Wednesday night,” she added with a laugh.
Family said Block was one who loved to laugh and always tried to find joy.
“His laugh was contagious,” Bryan said.
As the life of any party, each year Block’s birthday fell around the Super Bowl in which his family would come together to celebrate and watch the big game.
“He had a hat on with both teams. He would keep turning the hat every time each team scored so that he would not lose,” Bryan said with a laugh.
He leaves to cherish in his memory his sons, Rudolph Thompson, Kurt Thompson, and Bryan Block; his daughters, Sheryl Block Pickett and Angel Block Canady; his siblings, Vernell Block Roberson, Hattie Block Gilmore, Joyce Block Ambler and Larry Block; and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews and other relatives.
Willie Lee Skannal
Willie Lee Skannal was born on April 14, 1928, in Shreveport, Louisiana, to Willie Skannal and Effie Lee Drayden. A United States Army veteran, he died on Sept. 8 at age 93.
He attended Mt. Zion and Ingersoll Elementary schools in Shreveport. He graduated from Central Colored High School in 1945. He then attended Los Angeles City College where he studied Art from 1946 to 1948.
Skannal later moved to Kansas City and was drafted into the Army, where he worked as a construction engineer. He received an honorable discharge in 1952.
He met his wife Lillie Seals in Kansas City. They were married on March 6, 1950. They had 10 children together.
Family said he began working at a young age. He worked as a paper boy, delivered ice, shined shoes and walked blind people to work. As an adult, he worked for several companies, including Sarachek Art Galleries Inc, Chase Bag Company, Eddie’s at the Prom Hotel, Lemon Tree Club, The Sheraton Hotel and The River Club, from which he retired. He later rejoined the workforce at Osco Pharmacy/CVS and retired after 16 years.
Skannal loved his family very much and enjoyed traveling to Louisiana to visit as often as he could. He loved participating in family reunions and telling stories of his youth.
He also enjoyed art, drawing, baseball, flying kites and tennis. One of his fondest memories was when he attended the U.S. Open with his brother, Napoleon.
He loved to dress and was very particular about his appearance. Family said some of his notable sayings were, “I took care of myself by staying up all night and chasing wild women” and “I’m still kicking but not too high.”
Willie was a member of St. Stephen Baptist Church in Kansas City.
Cherishing his memory are his children, Chantale Baynham, Vincent Skannal, Denise McCraney, Gregory Skannal, Allison Allen, Phyllis Skannal, Mark Skannal, Brian Skannal and Darryl Skannal, brother Napoleon Skannal, sisters Dorothy Flanagan, and Catherine Elmore, and a host of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Victoria “Vikki” Jefferson was born on Jan. 4, 1958, in Wichita. A poet and author, she died on Sept. 7 at age 63.
Jefferson accepted Jesus Christ at an early age and was baptized at Martin Temple Church of God in Christ in Wichita.
She attended Wichita South High School, Wichita State University, and later moved to Kansas City, where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree at Rockhurst University Research College of Nursing.
She began her career at Wichita State University and The University of Kansas Medical Center. She was employed by the Sprint Corporation as a special events coordinator. During her tenure, family said she served as the coordinator of the Spirit Festival, the largest outdoor festival in the Midwest, for ten years. Jefferson was also a career development executive/job coach for the Full Employment Council.
She loved jazz, gospel and blues. Family said she also created one-woman shows, wrote poetry and wrote her own biography.
She leaves to cherish her memory, nieces Evangelist Regina Jefferson, Sheryl Harper, Paula Harper; nephews Elder William Harper, Jr., Chris Harper, William Ladale Harper, III; aunts Vernell Kelley and Martha Swindall; uncle Gus Jefferson; brother-in-law Pastor William Harper, Sr.; cousins Tanisha Bowen, Hope Randle, Sandra Williams, Delbert Taylor, Charlotte Kaye White, Joyce Lowe, Jacci Kay White, Gloria Lynn, Bobby Jefferson, Terry Jefferson, Charles Jefferson, Charles Jefferson, Leslie Campbell, and a host of family and friends, lifelong friends Willard Loggins, Lynn Martin-Allen, Pastor Leon Jiggetts and Ethan Richardson.