William Arthur Dann

Services for William Dann are planned and for more information contact Warren-McElwain Mortuary at 785-843-1120.


William Dann died of cardiac issues on September 6. 2020 in Lawrence, KS. A philanthropist, Bill focused his generosity on charities to help “little ones” and elders in Lawrence and Kansas City.

Bill had four major passions in life: playing jazz piano, writing “advertorials” (a word he coined), conversing with interesting people all around Lawrence, and donating to his beloved charities. Piano was his backup plan in case he “ever had to go to work.” Advertorials were the paid opinion pieces he printed in the Lawrence Journal World so the editor couldn’t change his carefully written words. An interesting conversation on the important issues of the day might inspire him to write a new advertorial, of which he published about 300. Perhaps most importantly, Bill liked to watch his charitable donations be put to good use by the charities he supported. He enjoyed visiting with and becoming friends with the leaders of those organizations and learning more about the people, young and old, that they helped daily.

William Arthur Dann was born on April 14, 1937, in New York City to the late Hollis Arthur Dann, piano professor at Oberlin College, and the late Anne “Petey” Cerf, whom Lawrence remembers as the founder of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, KU Audio Reader, and the Ballard Center (to all of which Bill was also an important donor). Bill lived in New York City, Oberlin, OH, and Beverly Hills, CA, before moving to Lawrence when he was 12. He was briefly a member of the Lawrence High School Class of 1955, but then attended the George School in Pennsylvania and graduated from the Oakwood School in New York. He attended the Universities of Vermont and Kansas but did not graduate. After stints in Burlington (Vermont), Boston, New York, Kansas City, and San Francisco, he moved to Lawrence for good in 1977. His main avocation was playing piano, with a focus on jazz. He practiced diligently several times daily and maintained a membership in the Kansas City Federation of Musicians for years “just in case” piano ever needed to become his vocation. He continually referred to himself as “a peripheral person” because he never married or held a job. In 2006, needing postoperative care, he entered Presbyterian Manor for a short stay; he liked it so much he sold his house and car and remained in Presbyterian Manor for the rest of his life.

His siblings Anne Dann Compton and James Dann predeceased him. He is survived by seven siblings or half-siblings, Elizabeth Dann Jones of Westport, NY, Charles Cerf (Cynthia Dunbar) of Washington, DC, Pauline Cerf Alexander (Lukas Franck) of Chester, NJ, Robert Dann of Nova Scotia, Canada, John Dann of Wadhams, NY, Thomas Dann (Terry Gee-Dann) of Hiram, ME, and Louise Dann Standish (Timothy) of McGrath, Alaska. Bill is also survived by 19 nieces and nephews and several great-nieces and great-nephews.

Memorial contributions in Bill’s memory may be directed to the Lawrence Presbyterian Manor Good Samaritan Fund, which helps residents to continue living there even after running out of funds. These contributions may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044,

Bill was always grateful to the many Lawrencians who extended the hand of friendship to him.

Bill’s family is especially grateful to his friend and advisor, Barbara Braa. A celebration of life will be announced at a later date, probably in 2021.

11 Condolences

  1. Eugenia Leasure Bryan on September 9, 2020 at 11:30 am

    Farewell, Bill Dann. Always interesting. Challenging. And good natured. Your Lawrence High School 1955 classmate friends will not forget your unique contributions to our antics and gatherings!

    Eugenia Leasure Bryan

  2. Lenette Adams Hamm on September 9, 2020 at 11:36 am

    Oh how I miss your visits to the KABC office and some of the “enlightening” conversations we had! You were one in a million, my friend. Fly free…

  3. Dave Olson on September 9, 2020 at 1:15 pm

    Mr. Dann”s Family,

    Bill was a wonderful neighbor on Trail Road and he supported the Lawrence Public Schools in many ways. He always had time for great conversations and really took an interest in people.


  4. Nancy Jorn on September 9, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    By providing seed money for 4-year-old classrooms, Mr. Dann brought early childhood education into the mainstream for Lawrence public schools. His support was crucial to helping other early childhood pioneers demonstrate the many benefits of helping children get off to the best possible start in their schooling. His legacy in productive lives for those children and the ones coming after them cannot be measured.

  5. Earl Reineman on September 10, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Bill was absolutely one of my favorite people. He was always eager to connect by way of a good conversation, and took a real interest in others and in the world around him. He was kind and generous (and a little mischievous), and his legacy will live on in Lawrence, Ks–especially by way of his philanthropic gifts. Thank you, Bill, for making life more interesting for all of us who had the honor of knowing you.

  6. Heather & Ross Thomas, Emily & Molly on September 11, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dann and Cerf families. We lived next door to Bill on Trail Rd. for 15 years, and although we both moved in 2007, he has remained a beloved friend in our hearts. I continue to think of him often and miss him terribly, and we are deeply saddened to hear of his passing. When we bought our house on Trail Rd., I knew of Bill only through his “advertorials,” so you might imagine my apprehension when I discovered that he was my new neighbor. But it wasn’t long before we met and became instant friends. I discovered that Bill was a kind and gentle soul, very quiet and unassuming, with a quick wit and sharp intellect, and – always — his self-deprecating sense of humor. He loved and admired my children unconditionally. I will never forget our spirited debates on lots of current issues, even though we were completely opposed to the other’s viewpoint! He always listened patiently to my arguments and offered his own insights; and while I always tried to sway his opinion, I don’t think I ever succeeded! I loved listening to him play his piano – he had so much talent that he was reluctant to share. I could hear him playing outside through the walls of the house, but it also let me know that he was OK when I hadn’t actually seen him in a few days. The man walked miles – I can’t tell you how many times I tried to get him to wear a safety vest when he walked at night, but he never would. I could go on and on… so many good memories! Bill was a treasure, and our world will be a little less colorful without him. Rest in peace, dear friend!

  7. Kathie Worley on September 11, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    I am so sorry to hear of Bill’s passing. He was always kind, inquisitive and always wanting to know all I had to tell. Good bye my friend.

  8. Diana Seely Frederick on September 16, 2020 at 9:36 am

    The Lawrence community has lost another bright light with the passing of Bill Dann. I had the great privilege of knowing Bill and his mother, Petey Cerf, during my 25 years with Audio-Reader and – like so many – was inspired by the generous spirit of philanthropy that they both shared with the vulnerable adults and children in our community. My friendship with Bill continued when I became the Director of Douglas County CASA, and I enjoyed many long and lively conversations as we discussed the challenges facing abused and neglected children – and various unrelated topics that captured Bill’s interest. We didn’t always share the same views on current events and issues, but we both benefited from our dynamic discussions. His disclaimer was always that he was “rectangular” or “peripheral” and sometimes even “triangular”, all of which brought chuckles from both of us as he thoughtfully explained the challenges of his nonconformity. Big issues mattered to Bill, but so did small details. I’ll never forget learning that letters to Bill should *always* be addressed to “Mr. William Dann” on the envelope and the familiar “Bill” reserved only for contents inside the envelope. After one scolding, I never repeated this mistake! Bill was truly a “hometown hero” with genuine concern and compassion for others, and unmatched generosity to support so many worthwhile causes. I will miss him greatly, but our world is a better place because of him. My thoughts are with Bill’s family, many friends, and especially Barbara Braa who was such an important part of his life for so many years. A peripheral person, Bill was still the center of everything for many, and he leaves a legacy that continues to make a difference.

  9. Susan Esau Arasmith on September 17, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Bill was one of the most interesting, lovable and generous people I’ve ever known. What a loss to our community, but what an amazing legacy he left.

  10. Bill Riek on September 22, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    I met Bill through the amazing and transformative gifts he made to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. His generosity knew no bounds and we spoke often of how his gifts were used here and how at other charities that he so loved. At the soul of his being was a genuine desire to improve society. He strived to do his part to make it better through giving, advocation and, for as long as he was able, through volunteering. While always a “peripheral” person in the eyes of society, he was a true treasure to those of us who had the privilege to know him.
    Bill, I’m really going to miss our talks!

  11. Karen Anderson Troutman on October 21, 2021 at 9:04 am

    Bill Dann was such a great person to talk to. I got to know Bill at the 9th and Mississippi Kwik Shop. I went in every day for a fountain drink, having worked at the Arts Center in the old Carnegie Building. Steve, the manager, Bill, and I would have the best conversations about a myriad of topics. Bill was one person who loved to debate and could do it without getting all worked up. I would run into him at the hospital cafeteria and other places around town. He was very proud of the fact that he had been permanently banned from Wheatfields! Bill liked his bread and ate a lot! It was my understanding that sight issues are what led him to Presby Manor and ended his jaunts about town. He was a wonderful person, a generous benefactor, and one of the reasons living in Lawrence is great. Thanks Bill….for all the great conversations….and your jazz!

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