Remembering Jefferson City’s favorite lady.
Pete. Around here, you only need the first name. Lorraine, the same. Pete and Lorraine, no last name required. They became the First Couple of Jefferson City. There were certainly others with more wealth and influence, but this was Pete and Lorraine’s town.
It was a sad day for all of us in Mid-Missouri on April 5 — as well as those around the country who had their lives touched by Lorraine Adkins — when the matriarch of this power couple passed away quietly at their home with Pete and their son, Terry, by her side. Of course Pete was by her side. This great love story wouldn’t have ended any other way.
They say that behind every great man is a great woman, and Lorraine was certainly that — great. For a long time, Lorraine, who would have been 89 in June, would probably be considered the woman behind Pete. But really, and especially in the last three-plus decades, that wasn’t the case. Lorraine wasn’t behind Pete; she was by his side. They were arm in arm and holding hands, joined at the hip, with matching proud jaws, her wearing a smile to complement what was usually his lack of one.
Lorraine was both sweet and tough. If you needed to get something done, Lorraine was the one to call. She would get it done, using both her sweetness and toughness in whatever proportion was required.
“She was one of the most self-confident people I’ve ever known,” says Helen Cole. “She was confident in her own abilities, and she was a bulldog when it came to her husband – she supported him through all kind of things, whether it was professional or personal. She taught me a lot about how important that was. Lorraine was a person that I admired, because her strength and courage were beyond belief.”
While Lorraine worked as a real estate agent for many years, she was a philanthropist at heart and would do anything in her power to help the cause. She was a pillar of the Cole County Historical Society, but her number one philanthropic passion was veterans. Lorraine was dubbed the “First Lady of Patriotism” – she was on the ground floor of Operation Bugle Boy back in 2001; was a driving force behind Operation Tyler, to build a handicapped-friendly $350,000 home for a badly wounded local Marine, in 2011; and was the founder and director of Wreaths for Heroes.
With Lorraine’s help, these organizations have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and sponsored many other projects, like Operation Merry Christmas and Operation Adopt a Hero, which sent hundreds of care packages around the world to local troops. Chris Jarboe, president and executive director of Operation Bugle Boy, recalls a story from the 2007 mission.
“Lorraine received a call from two American soldiers stationed in Baghdad on Thanksgiving Day of 2007,” Jarboe says. “They knew Coach [Pete] Adkins and wanted to thank the Adkinses for the wonderful care packages they’d received [which included a letter from Pete and Lorraine, co-chairs of the operation] to let them know how much their thoughtfulness had lifted their spirits. Lorraine was crying on the phone when she was talking to me about it, she was so touched by this call. She loved our troops.”
She certainly did. Her passion had – and still has – a trickle-down effect. “It was very important to Lorraine that our area students develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the price of freedom,” Jarboe says. “She devoted so much time to visiting schools in the Jefferson City area, educating them about the history of the Jefferson City National Cemetery, and the sacrifices of our veterans. Students have not only been involved in each of the Wreath for Heroes programs, they’ve also been active in raising money to help fund this project since 2010.”
Lorraine made it clear before she passed away that Don Hentges, president of the Jefferson City Veterans Council, was her choice to take the helm of the Wreaths for Heroes program. While he’ll “make sure it gets done,” Hentges considers himself just another member of the team. He says, “In my mind, this is always going to be Pete and Lorraine’s project.
“It’s a shame somebody didn’t start it years ago,” Hentges continues. “When she first brought it up in 2010, it was like, ‘Duh, why haven’t we been doing this?’ The Jeff City community is so patriotic and veteran oriented, anyway, it was just a perfect fit. When she brought up the idea, I didn’t think there was any way we could raise enough money [around $20,000] to buy all those wreaths and be ready to go that year – I thought it would be a two- or three-year project. But when Lorraine started talking, everybody was like, ‘Yes, I want to be a part of this.’ It just fell together so quickly and so easily. . . . She was a true person, very passionate, very genuine. There wasn’t anything fake about her. What you saw is what she was. When Lorraine Adkins spoke, people listened.”
Along with help from Busch’s Florist, the organization ended up with more than enough money that first year to lay 1,587 first-class wreaths at Jefferson City National Cemetery. In addition, they now have enough backup wreaths to replace all 1,587 as needed. They’ll normally remain in good shape for at least two or three years. “What Lorraine did,” Hentges says, “has drawn so much attention to the sacrifices all these veterans have made. She was going to get it done. I can still hear her say, ‘No, we’re not going to do it that way, we’re going to do it this way.’ You had to love her for who she was and what she’s done.”
Lorraine, thank you for everything. You are greatly missed.
Lorraine Adkins and the Cole County Historical Society
2010 Became a member of the Cole County Historical Society
2011 Became a member of the CCHS Board
First committee assignment docent chairman -— revised training methods for docents and brought under her duties the display of the “First Ladies Inaugural Gowns” revitalizing the displays and fundraising to maintain the collection.
She organized bus trips to raise awareness of cultural awareness of attractions outside the area – the first being a trip to Kansas City to see the Exhibit of Princess Diana’s clothes.
2012-2014 Became CCHS President
Priority – Fundraising
CCHS’s signature event for fundraising is the spring fashion show. She took charge of developing the auction side, not only in the solicitation of auction items, but also displaying them for sale. As a fall event, she organized a chicken dinner and auction.
She became aware that work was needed to maintain the history of the outlying communities in Cole County, so renewed commitment to host events for locals to bring artifacts and documents for preservation.
Spearheaded CCHS’s “Remembrance of 911” Event – a salute to Veterans
She was CCHS’s primary radio voice. With her special relationship to all the media, all events were given notice.
2017 Became CCHS Vice President
CCHS needed Lorraine’s continuing leadership. At the time of her death, she was raising money to replace the existing floor covering with a wood laminate to enhance the new George Washington display housed on that floor.