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A decade ago, Shanta McGee sold her clothing designs out of her garage. But after years of hard work, she opened her brick-and-mortar Effortlessly Fly Boutique, saw her designs modeled in fashion shows and won awards.
Her son J’yawn McGee says his memories of her determination are now helping him cope with her recent death.
“Not having her here is hard because that was basically my best friend,” says J’yawn, the oldest of his mother’s three children. “She always taught me if you want something you have to go out and get it because nobody is going to give it to you.”
McGee died Sept. 3 due to health complications. She was 38. The family declined to elaborate on the cause.
At 5534 Troost Ave., Effortlessly Fly Boutique targeted women of all sizes. In 2021 the store won the Kansas City People’s Choice Award for “Best Boutique,” and last year her clothing was featured in the Curves and Confidence Fashion Show.
McGee, a graduate of Ruskin High School, was known not just for her sense of fashion but also for her willingness to help clients discover their own personal style.
“She was a go-getter and she was thriving,” says her son. “She accomplished every goal that I saw her set out to.”
He remembers no matter how busy his mother was with her business, she made sure he and his siblings knew they were the most important thing in her life.
His father, Talib Cherry, remembers her as someone who never gave up.
“She sacrificed and managed it and made everything happen on her own,” says Cherry. “I was excited for her success because we all believed in her and knew she had what it took.”
Many people who knew McGee from the Black fashion scene took to social media to share their condolences and grief.
“The celebration for Shanta McGee was indeed Effortlessly Fly. Rest in Fashion.”
“We should be going to fashion week together. Lord give me strength where it is needed.”
“Until we hug again. I love you Shanta McGee, Ms Effortlessly Fly.”
“Long Live Shanta McGee, may your beautiful soul live on forever.”
“I thank God for us meeting each other, you are a beautiful person inside and out.”
After her death, the family organized a final sale to mark the closing of Effortlessly Fly Boutique, calling it The Final Slay. All inventory sold within days.
Funeral services were held Sept. 22, and she would have been proud, her son said. Mannequins dressed in McGee’s clothing designs were lined along the casket.
It wasn’t until after his mother’s death that the 19-year-old Center High School graduate truly grasped his mother’s impact, recalling the packed funeral with family, friends and past clients who all had stories of how his mother had touched so many lives.
“Even though I was sad, it made me happy to see so many people show up and see that she did make an impact on KC and made her mark here,” he says.
Cherry feels that the turnout was not only a testament to how much she cared about the clothing she sold but also the way she made her customers feel.
“The service was a reflection of her career, and there were a lot of people with a lot of love,” says Cherry. “She had such a good heart, a good spirit and was a loving person.”
She is survived by her mother, Rose McGee; children J’yawn, Zuri and Hasan; partner Talib Cherry; siblings Desmond Gidden, Niya Freeman, Tanisha McGee and Lakisha Gilliam.
James Whitney, local musician and Navy veteran, died Sept. 1. He was 73.
Whitney was born Dec. 17, 1949, to Charles and Anna Whitney in Sedalia. He was the seventh of the couple’s eight children.
Whitney played on his high school’s basketball team and loved listening to Motown records.
After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and discovered a passion for singing and playing the bass guitar. On the ship he formed a band with fellow servicemen, and the group performed where they were stationed, such as Spain and Italy.
Whitney was honorably discharged in 1975 and moved to Kansas City, where he began his new life as a musician. Having multiple day jobs throughout his lifetime, Whitney’s only consistent occupation was in music.
He is survived by his wife, Tressa; children James Harris, Derrick Redmon, Jeanella Palton, LaShawnda Whitney, JuVonda Sappho, Jamie Flemons and Reginald Roach; siblings Glen, Whitney and Shirley Caldwell; along with a host of grandchildren, cousins and friends.
Robert Morgan, architect and father, died Sept. 7. He was 89.
Morgan was born on March 6, 1934, to Casey and Lizzie Morgan in Yazoo City, Mississippi. The family moved to Kansas City in 1943.
He played for the football team at R.T. Coles Vocational High School and was voted senior class president.
Morgan went to Lincoln University in Jefferson City and later transferred to Kansas State University for its school of architecture.
Morgan left college in 1957 but returned and earned his degree in architecture in 1964. He went on to work as a draftsman with Kenneth Larkin and Associates and later worked for the Kansas City Public Works Engineering Division.
He served on various architectural advisory boards.
His relatives will remember him as a loving person who enjoyed fishing, making people laugh and spending time with his family.
He is survived by his wife, Janet; children Allyson Morgan Roldan and Robert Whitney Morgan; along with many friends and relatives.