WEST DES MOINES – Despite her short stature, Joan Ellen Dorrell was an enormous catalyst for equality, a huge supporter of all people and a loud, vocal champion for the discriminated.

Joan was born Jan. 14, 1960 in Fort Dodge, IA, the first child of Keith and Margo Ford Dorrell. With her devoted family at her side, Joan died at Kavanagh Hospice in Des Moines on May 7, 2014 from breast cancer.

Joan was raised in Fort Dodge and graduated from St. Edmond High School by way of Clearwater Beach, FL and Sioux City. She married Kevin Kutz, her high school sweetheart, in 1981.

Soon after graduating from Iowa State University, Joan began a 20 year career in management at Cigna in West Des Moines. Joan’s second career took her to Mercy Hospital in West Des Moines where she greeted patients and provided directions. With her outgoing personality, she also calmed patients’ fears as they waited for test results or to undergo treatments. Determined to be of greater assistance, Joan immersed herself in the study of Spanish and spent time in Mexico sharpening her skills.

Joan loved to go on long car rides, talking and connecting with people, spending time on the boat with family and making lists. She disliked hypocrites, partisan politics, bras and being alone. She adored her grandchildren, loved giving advice to all and could always find the silver lining in any situation, even her own 2-year grueling battle with cancer.

Despite the sizeable difference in their heights and personalities, Joan and Kevin were soul mates who showed generosity, compassion and kindness towards others. They coached and cheered on their children and were very involved in diversity and mentoring activities. Over the years, when they needed a place to stay, eight adults were invited to live in Joan and Kevin’s home. Although she loved throwing parties and opening her home to many, Joan rarely cooked and hated housekeeping.

Joan is survived by her husband of 32 years and their 3 biological children: Sarah and her husband Jeff Kephart of Des Moines, David and his fiance Marc Lewallen of Chicago, Noel and her husband Joe Schulte of Iowa City, chosen daughter Esperanza and her husband Esdras Murillo of Des Moines, and two beautiful grandchildren, Sophia and Liam Kephart. Joan is also survived by her brother Steven and dear sister Judy who has been especially compassionate and supportive of Joan during her illness.

On Sunday, May 11, the family will greet friends at Caldwell Raddatz Funeral Home from 4 to 7 pm. A funeral mass in honor of Joan will be held at 11:00 am on Monday, May 12, at St. Francis Church in West Des Moines where Joan and Kevin were active members. A party to celebrate Joan’s life will follow immediately at Joan and Kevin’s home.

Memorial gifts will be used to establish an annual scholarship in Joan’s name to support the education of a student who embraces all people and volunteers to help others. Finally, in honor of Joan, the family asks that you do an unexpected act of kindness for someone who looks like they could use a friend. Online condolences may be sent at