Lifelong Neodesha resident Rochelle Ruth Chronister, 83 passed away at her home surrounded by loved ones on Sunday, April 2, 2023.
Rochelle, better known as Shelle by her close friends, was born the only child of Charles and Arlene (Hare) Beach on August 27, 1939, in Neodesha, Kansas. After graduating from Neodesha High School in 1957, Rochelle attended the University of Kansas, earning her bachelor’s degree in Bacteriology in 1961. In August of 1961 she married her college sweetheart Bert Chronister at the Neodesha United Methodist Church. The two eventually made their home in Neodesha and welcomed their first born, Pam. Bert’s stint in the Navy took them to Charleston, South Carolina from 1965 to 1967 where they welcomed their second child, Philip. Shortly thereafter, they moved back to Neodesha to set their family roots.
Rochelle jumped into politics the next year by knocking on doors for Bob Dole’s first campaign for the US Senate. Throughout the years, she served on the school board, was a Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader, was instrumental in building the local Girl Scout House and served in various other community organizations. In 1978, Rochelle was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives. She would serve from 1979 to 1995. She served as Assistant Majority Leader of the House from 1983 to 1986 and was the first women in a Kansas House leadership position. A longtime leader of Moderate Republicans in the Kansas house, she was elected as the State Republican Party Chairwomen in 1989. She was a member of the House Education Committee from 1979 to 1982 and a member of the House Appropriations Committee from 1983 to 1994 (Chair from 1991 to 1994). After serving in the legislature, she was appointed head of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services for the State of Kansas in 1995, retiring in 1999. Once retired, she and her best friend, Billie Porter, hit the road in her RV for many years touring the United States.
When Rochelle wasn’t representing and volunteering her time for the people of Kansas, she consumed newspaper editorial pages and enjoyed reading mystery novels, especially those by Agatha Christie and lately Cozy mystery series. She loved her family basset hounds, singing (she sang in the church choir for years), playing cards and spending time with her grandchildren. Most Friday nights you would find her, Bert and the Porters having dinner at a local restaurant. She was a member of the USD 461 school board, the Greenbush board, the Wilson Medical Center’s board of trustees, US Alliance Corporation board and lifelong member of the PEO and the Neodesha United Methodist Church.
Rochelle is preceded in death by her parents, Charles and Arlene Beach.
Her memory will live on with her husband, Bert Chronister MD, daughter, Pam Lewis and husband Jeff of Huntington Beach, CA, son Philip Chronister and wife RaNee of Andover, KS, grandsons, Peyden and Dustin and great granddaughter, Olivia.
Memorial contributions can be made in Rochelle’s name to the Wilson Medical Center Foundation or the WA Rankin Memorial Library.
The family will greet friends on Friday, April 7th from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at Loran Fawcett Chapel. Funeral services will be held at 10:00 am on Saturday, April 8th at the Neodesha United Methodist Church with burial immediately following at the Neodesha Cemetery. To leave the family a special message of condolence, please visit www.loranfawcettfuneralhome.com.