16:43 PM

JoEllen Engelbart, YLS Council Chair-Elect, dies of COVID-19

Memorial service to be livestreamed at 1 p.m., Jan. 8

Members of the legal community are mourning the loss of JoEllen Engelbart, an assistant prosecutor in the Special Victims Unit of the Jackson County Prosecutors’ Office, who died Jan. 2, 2021, due to COVID-19. She was 32 years old. 

Engelbart was first elected to a two-year term on The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section Council in 2018. She was re-elected to represent District 3 or Jackson County in 2020. Shortly thereafter, she was selected by members of the council to serve as chair-elect for the 2020-21 bar year. 

Friends and colleagues remember her as a “fierce advocate” who was loyal and selfless.  

“She unapologetically had the biggest personality in the room,” colleague, friend, and YLS Council member Kelly Collins told reporters. “JoEllen just had an ability of making kids feel comfortable and heard and believed and safe.” 

Engelbart was hospitalized with COVID-19 while pregnant. She gave birth to a son, Ross, three months early on Dec. 29, 2020. Four days later, Engelbart succumbed to the virus. A GoFundMe page has been organized to help support her husband, Matt, and Ross, who remains hospitalized in NICU.  

“Her professionalism and great spirit will never be forgotten, and neither will her great smile,” said Lauren Collins 2020-21 Missouri Bar YLS chair. “JoEllen was kind, funny, strong, and overall an amazing person. She inspired many young attorneys in the profession and will truly be missed. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Matt, baby Ross, their family, and loved ones.” 

Private funeral services for Engelbart will be held at 1 p.m., Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, in Kansas City, followed by her burial at Calvary Cemetery. Her service is scheduled to be livestreamed. Learn more about her services here.

Engelbart's family suggests any memorials be made to the Student Law Academy, a nonprofit organization, which JoEllen was closely involved with and was deeply passionate about. Visit kcmbf.org/JoEllen to donate and learn more about the organization. 

“The loss of JoEllen, especially in this manner, is impactful to our bar, our profession, and our humanity in a way that is difficult to articulate,” said John Gunn, 2020-21 Missouri Bar president. “She was a bright spot for The Missouri Bar. 

All Missouri Bar members and their immediate families have free, 24/7 access to confidential counseling, including grief counseling, through The Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program. Learn more at MoBar.org/molap or call 800-688-7859. 

You may learn more about Engelbart, her family, and her work in public service through these Kansas City-area news stories: