Kristine (Lange) Cheatum ’59 died on June 6, 2010. Kris was a case manager at the Kansas Department of Social Rehabilitation Services for 36 years, and maintained her social work license until the day she died. She had an over 50-year career as a human rights activist and an advocate for a wide range of progressive issues. A Kansas City Star column by Lewis Diuguid noted Kris’s commitment to justice: “Kris Cheatum and her husband, Lynn, spoke out for Muslims’ rights and against the U.S. war in Afghanistan and later against the war in Iraq. They attended nearly every rally, carried signs, edited newsletters, absorbed insults and conducted fundraisers. They wanted the best for America and all of its people, advocating peace as the only answer – not war, scapegoating and discrimination. When individuals use their intellect and goodwill to build up civilization, positive things can happen.... Her hard work for peace helped to slow the massive move to scapegoat Muslims. She kept people from feeling entitled to hurt, hate and discriminate. That pause allowed folks’ brains to engage so they could see the humanity in people of a different faith.” Among survivors are Lynn and their two sons.
Myrne Roe, class of '58, composed this poem in her honor:
Kris Died June 6, 2010
by Myrne Roe
This morning's paper read
Kansas City, Missouri
Mary Kristine Cheatum . . .
A pause to shake off sleep,
a cautious second glance.
Then my eyes stopped
on the Kris in Kristine.
Kris, the tiny girl-woman
with a nasal twang
that set the college drama teacher
into a hell-bent goal to change
that "awful" voice.
The teacher did not know
Kris could not change.
It was not in her nature to conform.
Her life would become a celebration
of civil disobedience.
She would brook no intolerance,
support no war.
Her energy overflowed her frame.
Her compassion sent her with food
into a crime-filled ghetto in the 1960s
so the Black Panthers
could feed hungry children.
Her war against war and nuclear crusades
earned her catcalls and arrests.
Her laugh left her throat
with uncontrollable delight
and her love wrapped others
in an embrace like a soft cotton comforter.
I weep today for the Kris in Kristine.