Sylvia Bailey left Lee’s Summit years ago to lead an adventurous life as a scientist.
But she remembered her roots and left 50 acres of land to be a park, now named for her.
Bailey, 70, was living in Little Rock when she died in April 2000.
The park, as yet undeveloped, is on the west side of Ranson Road south of Bailey Road, across from the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area.
The land was part of the family farm established in 1866 by Jessie and Mary Jane Bailey. It grew to include 1,360 acres, leases on three other farms and a large dairy herd. Seven families lived on the farm, and there were other employees, including a full-time mechanic who commuted.
In the recent past much of the land belonged to Chester Bailey, who sold part of it for the wildlife area. Remaining land was passed on to his daughters, Shirley Bailey Cronin and Sylvia Bailey. The farm is designated as a University of Missouri Century Farm.
Sylvia gave her share to the city.
Her gift was in character.
She lived frugally and had in later years became sort of a “social scientist,” said Ron Williams, who was executor of the estate and knew her well.
Bailey was living in a small apartment only a few blocks from the Arkansas governor’s mansion when she died, Williams said.
Bailey was intelligent, modest and always curious.
Bailey left Lee’s Summit to attend college after graduating with honors from Lee’s Summit High School. Wherever she moved she chose to live close to a university and continued earning degrees.
Williams said Bailey would approve of the parks department plan for a community garden and eventually a farm park with exhibits.
“She would have loved to have that happen at her place,” Williams said.
She was a progressive, he said, interested in protecting the environment and fairness to people.
“She would have loved solar and wind energy going, she was into that kind of thing,” Williams said, even though she was an expert in nuclear energy.
Bailey received an associate’s degree from Stephens College for Women in Columbia and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Missouri. She earned a doctorate in nuclear chemistry at the University of California in Berkeley in 1959, then worked at an atomic energy lab. Later she moved to the Washington D.C. area where she worked for the U.S. Bureau of Standards. There she helped develop a synthetic material like wool, and a method to test the water consistency in concrete.
Bailey taught at the University of Maryland and briefly in the Chicago school system. She took a job as an iron worker. She learned to work on cars and took a class to learn to be an electrician. In 1994 she earned a degree in labor studies at Indiana University at South Bend.
She moved to Little Rock, Ark. and became co-chair of the Pulaski County Green Party and worked to unionize Wal-Mart workers, she also worked with groups to rehabilitate prisoners. Williams said she was a grassroots political activist and lived modestly. She wasn’t fashionable or looking for recognition but always an intellectual.
“Always, always thinking about stuff,” Williams said.