Kathy Lee Collins  Reilly
Kathy Lee Collins Reilly
Kathy Lee Collins Reilly

April 15, 1950 - November 16, 2021
Born in Des Moines, Iowa
Resided in Des Moines, Iowa
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Kathy Lee (Collins) Reilly died on November 16, 2021, at age 71.

She was born in Des Moines on April 15, 1950 and lived there most of her life. She graduated from Roosevelt High School and the University of Kansas where she prepared to be an English teacher. Kathy taught English, speech and drama at Urbandale, DM Lincoln, and Ankeny high schools. She was laid off from teaching in 1982 and headed to Drake Law School “to get even.” She graduated from Drake Law School with Honors and became the Legal Consultant and Administrative Law Judge for the Iowa Department of Education in early 1985.

After nearly ten years at the Department of Ed, Kathy joined School Administrators of Iowa where she continued to advise, teach, poke fun of, and “edu-tain” coaches, ADs, principals, HR executives and superintendents. She was known for her intelligent, irreverent humor and colorful vocabulary. Kathy loved teaching and taught Education Law in the graduate schools of Education at Drake and Iowa State, and occasionally for Drake Law School. She was a well-respected woman.

She lived with Alpha-One Anti-Trypsin Deficiency for nearly 30 years. She was put on full oxygen in 2006. It was her goal to be the “Poster Girl” for people on oxygen, and she could be seen all around town (and every Friday at Nick’s) toting her canister, a cannula running from tank to nose.

She had a quick wit and equally quick temper. She was judgmental and, unfortunately, never learned to keep her thoughts to herself.

Now in the spiritual world, Kathy awaits the arrival of her survivors: a brother, Larry D. (Carolyn) of Dubuque; three nieces: Kelsey Hutton (Mark), Stacey Pelletier (Glenn), and Erin O’Donnell (Leo), one fabulous nephew, Ryan Collins; six great-nieces and one great-nephew; former step-daughter and forever best friend, Amy Miller (Josh Rosen), of Berkeley; Amy’s twin sons, Felix and Devon; former step-son, Dr. Michael K. Miller (Grace) and his three children; JD’s siblings, Peg, Katy, Pat and Jim Reilly; and many, many friends.

Kathy was preceded in death by her parents, Donald A. Collins and Maxine E. Collins O’Halloran; her step-Pop, Mike O’Halloran; her beloved brother, Fred; first husband Keith D. Miller; and second and forever husband, JD Reilly, Jr.; and sister-in-law, Jane Siebrecht. Kathy loved and was loved in return.

Among Kathy’s many passions in life were her dogs, trivia, grammar, golf, 50s-60s rock-and-roll, clothes, jewelry, shoes, and purses, Shakespeare, Beaverdale, road trips, Roosevelt High School, the Kansas Jayhawks and the Iowa Hawkeyes. She loved college basketball and only half-jokingly said the NCAA tournament, aka “March Madness,” in March constitutes the “High Holy Days of my religion.” She was a gifted writer, churning out over 150 monthly columns on school law issues, as well as numerous Letters to the Editor (“Everyone’s entitled to my opinion!”), and a blog on FB as “Granny Grammar.” She was a popular speaker during her professional years.

Kathy appeared in several plays at the Des Moines Community Playhouse in the 70s and early 80s. She won on “Jeopardy!” in 1986, where she displayed her love of trivia and (wowed Alex Trebek with her recitation of the prologue to “Superman”). She was inducted into the Roosevelt High School Alumni Hall of Fame in 2011, one of the highlights of her life.

In her last effort to “think outside the box,” Kathy has been cremated. A celebration of Kathy’s Life will be held in early 2022. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Kathy Collins Reilly Scholarship with the Roosevelt High School Foundation, to the Southern Poverty Law Center, or to the Iowa Pet Alliance Foundation. Her cremains will be combined with JD’s and distributed pursuant to their wishes probably in the dark of night. Online condolences will be welcomed at







The Southern Poverty Law Center
400 Washington Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36104
Kathy Collins Reilly Scholarship with Roosevelt High School Foundation
4419 Center Street
Des Moines, IA 50312
Iowa Pet Alliance
P.O. Box 13021
Des Moines, Iowa USA 50310