Cover photo for John Kenneth Higdon's Obituary
John Kenneth Higdon Profile Photo
1925 John 2023

John Kenneth Higdon

November 23, 1925 — August 29, 2023

Lenexa, Kansas

John Kenneth (Ken) Higdon, Lenexa, Kansas, died 8 - 29- 2023 at Lakeview Village. Memorial services will be held at Village Presbyterian Church, on September 30, at 10:00AM.  

The family suggests contributions to the Village Presbyterian Church. 6641 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS, 66208: the Sherin H. Custer Memorial Award, K. U. Endowment Association, P. O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS, 66044; or the Lakeview Village Foundation, 9100 Park Street, Lenexa, KS, 66215 

Ken was born and raised in Kansas City, MO where he attended Bryant Elementary and Southwest High Schools, reporting for active duty with the U. S. Navy upon graduation from high school in 1943. He served in the Navy College Training Program (V-12) and the Naval Aviation Cadet Program (V-5), returning to the University of Kansas after World War Il. He graduated from the School of Business there in June of 1948, also receiving a commission from the first Air Force R. O. T. C. class in history. At that time, he returned to active military duty with the Air Force, serving as a pilot for eight years. He was a basic flight instructor, then assigned to the staff of the Air Force Pilot Instructor School as an instructor both in the air and in the classroom. 

He served in Korea with the 13th Bomb Squadron as a night intruder pilot and as the senior liaison officer to the UN Neutral Nations Inspection Team. Following his return to the U. S., he served with the Headquarters 27th Air Division (Air Defense) and the 329th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Southern California. 

In early 1956, Ken joined Business Men's Assurance Company in the Sales Department. 

Over the next 30 years, he held several positions in the company, including Director of Sales Training, Vice President-Sales, Executive Vice President-Chief Agency Officer and President and Chief Operating Officer. He retired from BMA in 1984, pursuing activities in the wellness field until mid 1987. He received the Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 1960. He also completed post graduate courses at the USAF Air University and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. 

Ken served on the board of directors of Business Men's Assurance Company, The Mercantile Bank and Trust Company of Kansas City, The Health Insurance Association of America and the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association. 

He was active in Kansas City civic affairs, serving the Civic Council as a Director, Chairman of the Membership Committee, and member of the Kansas City Tomorrow Committee. He also served as trustee for the Midwest Research Institute and The University of Missouri at Kansas City and was a member of the Kansas City Mayor's Task Force on Government Efficiency. He served as a Director of the Heart of America Council-Boy Scouts of America, Heart of America United Way, Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Kansas City Rehabilitation Institute, Minority Supplier Development Council, Pre School for the Visually Handicapped, the Metropolitan YMCA, and the School of Business Board of Advisors of both the University of Kansas and UMKC. In 1983, he was General Campaign Chairman for the Heart of America United Way Campaign which raised more than 20 million dollars for community charities for the first time in history. He was proud to be a "fair share" giver to the United Way from the time of his first employment with BMA until the time of his death. 

He served the Village Presbyterian Church as a Deacon, Trustee, Elder, Clerk of the Session, and Chairman of the Congregation. He served on many committees, was an usher, a member of the choir and a Stephen Minister. During his life, he strove to do justice to love kindness, and to walk humbly with his God. 

Ken was a member of the Mercury Club, the Man of the Month Club, the Johnson County 

Radio Amateurs Club (NOKH), and the Kansas City Navy/Marine Aero Club. He was also a member of the Kansas Chapter of Delta Upsilon Fraternity, and served as a director of both the chapter's house corporation and educational foundation. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the Kansas Chapter in 1989. 

Always avidly interested in aviation, he saved money from his Navy pay to purchase flying lessons and made his first solo flight on his nineteenth birthday. Thus began a long and adventurous vocation and avocation, continuing for nearly sixty years. During that time, he flew for the Air Force and later for his own enjoyment, qualified in single engine, multi-engine, conventional, turbo prop and jet aircraft of many types and vintages. 

He enjoyed a good story, classical, jazz, piano, choral and harp music; excellence in any form, an honest visit with a friend, tennis, biking and walking. He would rather "do" something than "watch" something. 

He is survived by his daughter, Barbara E. Higdon; Overland Park, KS; son, Donald S. Higdon, Overland Park, Ks, step daughter, Liz Smart Hinton (Curtis), Overland Park, KS., son-in-law, Rob Custer (Beth), Fremont, Nebraska; daughter-in-law, Jill Jackson, (Don) Lee's Summit, MO; three grandchildren, Jayne Higdon Dreyer (Kelly), Kansas City, MO., Shawn M. Custer (Geona), Severance, CO; Katherine B. Higdon, San Diego; CA and four great grandchildren. He is also survived by a brother, Donald T. Higdon (Sally), Flagler Beach, FL; and special friend, Margie Braun, Lenexa, KS.; He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Smart Higdon, son John Kenneth (Jay) Higdon, Jr. daughter, Sherin H. Custer, two brothers, William E. Higdon and Robert V. Higdon; and sister, Ruth Knudtson. 

Memorial services will be held at Village Presbyterian Church, in the Chapel, on September 30th, at 10:00AM
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