Lawrence D. “Mike” Penny

Graveside services for Lawrence D. “Mike” Penny, age 96, will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, October 10, 2020 at Memorial Park Cemetery in Lawrence. Mike died October 2, 2020 at Presbyterian Manor. Mike was born May 1, 1924, to Corban L. and Myrtle E. Penny on his family’s farm near Effingham, Kansas. At the age of seven, the family moved to a farm in Douglas County where he attended a rural grade school. Mike graduated from Liberty Memorial High School in 1942 and was inducted into the U.S. Army. Mike very proudly served with a Combat Engineer Battalion in the European theater during World War II.
Following his return home, he enrolled at the University of Kansas and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work in 1950 and accepted a position in social work at the Boys Industrial School in Topeka. While there, he completed the requirements for a Master’s Degree in Social Work at K.U. and received his MSW in 1955. He served in various capacities at the Topeka facility, later known as the Youth Center at Topeka, until his appointment as Superintendent in 1969. He remained in that position until 1979 at which time he accepted a position at the Youth Center at Atchison. Mike retired in 1989 and returned to Lawrence.

During his years of working with youth, Mr. Penny was involved in many local, regional and national service and professional organizations. He was a charter member of the Sunrise Optimist Club in North Topeka and its President in 1967-68. He was a charter member of the Atchison Optimist Club. He was also a member of the Lawrence Breakfast Optimist Club. He was a member of the Topeka Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Kansas Conference on Social Welfare and the Kansas Council on Children and Youth. He was on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Training Schools and Juvenile Agencies, its National President from 1971 to 1973 and recipient of its Donald G. Blackburn Presidential Award in 1996.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his 3 brothers and sisters-in-law Jim (Margaret) Penny, Bill (Mildred) Penny of Lawrence and Lowell (Betty) Penny of Ames, Iowa, and his sister and brother-in-law Rebecca (Fred) Martin of Kansas City, KS. Mike is survived by numerous nieces and nephews. He was an avid sports fan, especially KU sports, and he loved spending time with his family.

Mike will lie in state from noon – 6 p.m. on Friday, October 9, 2020 at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence.

The family suggests memorials to the First United Methodist Church of Lawrence or the Big Brother/Big Sisters of Douglas County, sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

7 Condolences

  1. Don Sheriff, Past Governor KS Optimists on October 5, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Mike will be missed. It was my pleasure to serve the youth of Lawrence with Mike and the Optimist Club. He was a true gentleman, a hard worker, and a friend
    of all.

  2. Helen Pendleton Rumbaut on October 6, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I met Mike through the Lawrence Breakfast Optimist Club. He and my dad, Bill Pendleton, were longtime members. I have attended many meetings as a visitor since the 1950s. Mike was a great guy, and I always enjoyed his company. He was kind and friendly. May the Lord Jesus comfort all those who grieve his loss.

  3. Mary Lou Penny on October 6, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Mike gave of himself tirelessly to improve the lives of troubled boys, to help them find joy in life and to learn self-discipline so that their lives were not defined by their early circumstances. He was a delight to know and made us glad we were family! Lovingly, Mary Lou Penny

  4. Jane Harris on October 6, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    I enjoyed getting to know Mike through being members of the Lawrence Breakfast Optimist Club. He was a “Doer” & was always involved. Mike dedicated his life to service: of his country, his family, his community & the Youth. He will be missed.

  5. Barry Chapin on October 6, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    I had the good fortune to work with Mike on Lawrence Breakfast Optimist fund raising events over the past 30 years at Christmas tree lots and Pancake breakfast events.
    He is missed by all who knew him. He was a kind, thoughtful and generous man.
    Also, he had my wife help him donate historical documents about Ester Twente, the first dean of the KU School of Social Welfare.

  6. Ernest Dyer on October 6, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    Ernie Dyer:
    Society has lost a good man. I first meet Mike in 1970, when he was the Chief of Social Work at the Topeka Boy’s Industrial School In Topeka. I became reacquainted with Mike when I joined the Lawrence Breakfast Optimist Club. Mike was one of the first graduates of KU with a degree in Social Work. Mike will be missed.

  7. Melody A on October 10, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Uncle Mike will be missed. I have good memories of his vacations with the family to Estes Park and RMNP.

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