New mother and public servant loses battle with COVID-19 just days after giving birth

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — JoEllen Engelbart was an important member of her new family and a big part of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. 

Co-worker and close friend Kelly Collins said there is a JoEllen-size bear hug missing from her heart.

“My world crumbled,” Collins said. “She’s the type of person that can’t be replaced.”

After testing positive for COVID-19, Engelbart, 32, died Jan. 2, 2021. It was a hard-fought battle, never giving up for her tight-knit family, husband Matt and new baby boy, Ross.

Engelbart lost her life just four days after giving birth. 

“She gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Collins said. “And she did everything she could to make sure he could still be here with us.”

Collins said that selflessness was second nature to Engelbart. She was an assistant prosecutor in Jackson County with the Special Victims Unit. For five years, Engelbart advocated for children who were physically and sexually abused. 

“She’s just a really tough person,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said. “But also kind and caring and went into prosecution for all the right reasons that really wanted to help other people.”

Engelbart’s fiercely loyal personality and ability to make everyone in the room know they matter is a loss to the legal community. It was ripped away by coronavirus. 

“Boy, the virus took a really lovely person,” Peters Baker said with tears in her eyes. 

“You hope that these stories help people know that COVID is real. It’s very real and very dangerous,” Collins said. “It doesn’t mean that somebody super close to you won’t also lose their life.”

Collins believed Engelbart never got to hold her miracle baby. He was born three months early. 

She hopes he will know the kind person Engelbart was through the countless number of people she has helped.

“While his mom can’t physically be here to do that, there are other people in his life that will make sure he gets those same feelings,” Collins said. “That his mom was able to give to so many other people.”

Collins said baby Ross is still in the NICU, but family said he is doing well – even exceeding expectations. They hope to continue that momentum.

If you would like to help this family, they are asking for donations on GoFundMe to cover medical bills and baby items.

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