Juanita Pearl Edwards, also known as the “Cake Lady,” lost her valiant fight against Alzheimer’s Disease on Oct. 6, 2023. She was 93.
Juanita was born to Lloyd and Emma Perry, just as the Great Depression took hold, on August 19, 1930, in Kirksville, Mo.
Growing up on a farm in the 1930s without the conveniences we now take for granted, Juanita had a special understanding of what it meant to have indoor plumbing and electricity. She told her family stories of milking cows, cooking on a wood-fired stove, and using an outhouse.
Her brother Cecil Perry, said he and she were weeding the cucumber pickle patch one very hot summer day when Juanita stood up and declared, “When I grow up, I’m never eating another pickle.”
But there were good times. Juanita especially enjoyed the fiddle music at Friday night barn dances, and attending the one-room schoolhouse where all classes were taught by Bobby Love, who would always be her favorite teacher.
Two events in 1941 changed the course of her life. On September 2nd, while her mother Emma was canning, she suffered a series of strokes. Her mother lingered for six days in excruciating pain before dying. Juanita said she mostly, “hid in the woods,” during that time because she was so frightened. Then three months later on December 7th, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the world was at war.
Her father Lloyd, no longer interested in farming, took a job with the railroad in Fort Madison, IA. Juanita and her brother Cecil stayed behind and lived with relatives.
Juanita was 15, when she joined her father. She attended Fort Madison High School and graduated at age 16. At 18, she met Francis Edwards, a short but muscular man with piercing blue eyes. Francis had recently finished his tour of duty in World War II with the US Navy. The couple eloped to Pocahontas, Ark., on September 5, 1948.
The couple settled in Kansas City, MO. One of the most joyous days of Juanita’s life was March 6, 1951, when her first-born Michael came into the world with a shock of red hair. We still marvel at how much Mike resembled Opie Taylor in his childhood photos. Francis and Juanita eventually had four children, Mike, and three daughters.
Juanita was an adept seamstress and sewed many of her children’s clothes. She also baked and made the most delicious chocolate oatmeal cake ever tasted. She also read books and poetry to her children. A favorite, was The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
After her children were grown, she took a job in housekeeping at St. Joseph Medical Center.
When her daughter Merry Ann with her husband opened a barbecue restaurant in Longmont Colo., Juanita moved there in 1998 and began baking cakes. She soon became known as the “Cake Lady.” Carrot Cake was a big favorite and some people came to the restaurant just for a slice and not the barbecue.
Over the decades, Juanita made many friends. She loved traveling, possibly visiting all 48 contiguous states, Hawaii and Alaska. She also traveled to Mexico several times with family and took several granddaughters on trips to Disney World.
At 82, she retired and moved to Olathe, KS, where she enjoyed playing cards and Bingo with her friends. Actually, she was phenomenal at Bingo, to the dismay of her lady friends. But at the casino, not so lucky.
Three years ago, Juanita moved to Shawnee PARC after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. We are so grateful to the many nurses and aides of the nursing home and Faith Hospice for caring for our mother as if she were a member of their actual family. It was very comforting to know she was in such good hands.
Juanita was preceded in death by (her parents,) an older brother, Robert Perry, a nephew, Butch Perry, great-grandson, Brandon Draven Spears, and step-grandson Joshua Webb.
She is survived by four children, Mike Edwards, Karen Dillon, Merry Ann Webb (Tracy Webb), Linda Burt (Rick Burt); nine grandchildren, Mike Edwards, Nicki Spears Geoffrion, Jennifer Dillon, Jessica Roberts, Daniel George, Josh Edwards, Teresa Gust, Shanna Barron, Crystal Balbinot, 15 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren; her brother, Cecil Perry, four nieces and nephews, and many great-nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be at 1:00 PM with a memorial service to follow at 2:00 PM on Monday, November 20, 2023, at the Penwell-Gabel Funeral Home, 14275 S. Black Bob Rd., Olathe, Kan., 66062. For those who cannot attend, Penwell-Gabel will provide a live streaming service at www.penwellgabelkc.com. The video will be available for three months.
Juanita's service will be livestreamed at the scheduled service time. Click here
to view the service.