Max Eugene Hayes

Max Eugene Hayes, age 95, of Leawood, KS, passed away peacefully on Feb. 8, 2024.

Max was born on Oct. 8,1928, the son of Henry and Ada Belle Hayes, of Smith County, KS. Along with his parents, he was predeceased by 5 siblings: Maxine, Marlene, Theresa, Roland, and Zella as well as his first wife, Marjorie Hayes, former Brother-in-Law, Everett G Bennett Jr, Daughter-in Law, Kathy Hayes and Brother-in Law, Tom Kenton.

Max was survived by his wife of nearly 40 years, Bonnie Luther (Herron) Hayes, his children, Michael Hayes (Karen), Jane Swenson (Thom), Stephen Hayes and Max’s Stepsons, Jeff Herron (Julie) and Scott Herron (Patty). God blessed Max with 13 loving Grandchildren, 4 delightful Great Grandchildren and many Nieces and Nephews.

Max’s life began on a farm in Smith County, KS. He rode his horse named Babe to the one room schoolhouse where he attended K-6. He later attended Smith Center HS where he excelled in Track, Basketball and Football. He had shared with his family that the school didn’t have enough leather helmets for the Football Team, so those who didn’t quickly get to the locker room had to play without one.

As the first person in his family to go to a university, Max left home to attend college at KU in 1947. About the same time as his departure to Lawrence, KS, his family updated their farmhouse to include electricity and indoor plumbing. Max was urged to try out for the football team and was given some financial help through a job as a student worker/trainer for Basketball Coach Phog Allen. He was present with Coach Allen as he measured off the dimensions for Allen Fieldhouse. Max learned many skills from Coach Allen that served him well with future athletes, family and friends. Max graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical ed and later moved to Goodland, KS in 1953 where he taught and coached basketball and football with his dear friend, Duane Unruh. In 1959, Max coached his Boys Basketball Team to their undefeated State Championship. Max received the Sam Dubin Award for Outstanding HS Coach in 1959 as the committee also awarded the Outstanding Professional Coach Award to Hank Stram. Both Max and the Team were inducted into the KS HS Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1961, Max and his family moved to KC, MO, for a position at Center HS, teaching and coaching Basketball. In 1964, Max received the Eddie Ryan Award for Coach of the Year. A year later, he had a very special Basketball Team (1965) who achieved a 31-1 record. In 1966, Max earned his master’s degree in Ed. Admin.

Max had many standout individuals and teams in the sports he coached. In 1965 he started a Golf program at Center HS. As head Coach of the Golf Teams, they achieved 7 Conference Championships (’69,’70,’74,’75 and ’76) and 6 State Championship Meets. His teams were pitted against area schools like Pembroke Hill Academy, which included Tommy Watson.

The 1976 Basketball Team proved to be yet another highlight in Coach Hayes’ career. At the State Championship game, his undefeated Center HS Basketball Team beat the undefeated St. Louis Central HS Team as nearly 9,000 people watched from every possible vantage point. Max received many awards including Coach of the Year by the Sportswriters-Sportscasters Assoc. of MO. Both Max and the ’76 Team were inducted into the MO HS Hall of Fame.

Max retired from coaching Boys Basketball in ’79. He was later asked to coach the Girls Basketball Team, which he did from 1982-1988. It was an adjustment for him to coach girls, and he was often asked to compare his experiences. He simply stated, “The girls smell better, but they cry.” His girls won 2 Conference Championships, and he greatly enjoyed those years with them. Max’s Stepson, Jeff Herron, eventually married one of the Yellow Jackets players, Julie Graves of the ’84 thru ’87 Teams.

Max and Bonnie married in 1984 and later built their home in Leawood, KS. In 1986, they joined Leawood So CC (now known as Country Club of Leawood). Max enjoyed many friendships and won his share of golf tournaments over the past 38 years. He even won a Men’s Member-Guest Tournament with his son, Michael. Max was notorious for being “sneaky good” and having a “deadly short game”.

After retiring from 35 years of teaching and coaching in 1988, Max decided to join Reece & Nichols as a residential real estate agent and continued this new career for 20 years.

Max was a very understated man who never sought the spotlight. Despite this demeanor, he was fiercely competitive. Max had a deep faith in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He joined Bonnie’s Church home at Colonial Presbyterian Church in 1984. He was a Deacon, Chairman of Deacons and Chairman of the Men’s Fellowship. Bonnie and Max forged deep and lasting relationships with their church family. The Life Group that they joined over 15 years ago gathered at their home, around his bed, singing beautiful hymns just prior to his passing.

In the last month of Max’s life, he began a steep decline and KC Hospice came into their home to assist Bonnie with his care. She is quite sure that God Himself chose a special nurse named Chris to walk this final path with both of them. The entire family would like to thank Chris Nedbalek, RN, David Wiley, Pres and CEO of KC Hospice and Palliative Care (Center HS grad. Class of ’87) and the entire team who helped Max live out his final days with dignity.

To his children and their families: Your Dad loved you, prayed for you, was so very proud of you, your accomplishments and your love of each other. He truly delighted in you.

To his students and athletes: Coach loved the process of teaching and coaching you, but his greatest joy came from remaining in your lives and witnessing your character, integrity and love of your families.

To dear friends and family: Max cherished every moment and memory with you. He was very aware that God had allowed him a long life in which to savor and enjoy your devotion.

To Red: Those who knew Max will remember that he was never without a Golden Retriever at his side. His constant companion up until his death was his beloved and loyal dog, Red.

Max was a very humble man. He was not a person who boasted about personal accomplishments, but for those seeking to learn even more of his story, one can search on Facebook (Max Hayes Center HS 1965 KC, MO) and (Max Hayes Center HS KC, MO).

The Celebration of Life will be held at 1:00PM on Monday, March 4th, 2024 at Colonial Presbyterian Church, 9500 Wornall Rd. KC,MO.

In Lieu of flowers, the family would greatly appreciate donations to either:

Colonial Presbyterian Church, 9500 Wornall Rd, KC, MO 64114

KC Hospice, 101 W 87th St, Suite 100, OP, KS 66212

To view the Livestream of Max’s Celebration of Life Service, please use the following link


  1. Jim West on February 17, 2024 at 7:56 am

    Max was one of a kind! As is his bride! Someone should make a movie based on his life and coaching career. He was clearly a gifted and inspiring leader.

  2. Beth and Kevin Wright on February 17, 2024 at 10:16 am

    Dear Max has always been a kind and special neighbor. His love for family always a priority. His love and walks with Buddy, Chief, and Red often brought him by to say hello and catch up. We will miss these special moments with Max.

  3. RemoAnn Fain on February 17, 2024 at 2:27 pm

    Through working for Bonnie, I became acquainted with Max. She often told me amusing and heart warming stories about him. After meeting Max in person I could completely see why he was loved. I’ll always remember his Oct. 8th birthday as my dad shared the same birthday. Enjoy your rest, Max.

  4. Orla Luther Kenton on February 19, 2024 at 10:08 am

    As my brother-in-law, Max was a beloved family member. His love of life was well represented by his many interests and friendships. Visits to KC always included his warm welcome to my family and gracious hospitality. I always enjoyed listening to his childhood stories of growing up on the farm. We would often enjoy relaxing on the deck, enjoying a good meal, and playing cards. He was a very humble man who garnered respect from all who knew him. I will miss his warm hugs and cherish our memories of being together.

  5. Rita E McFarland on February 20, 2024 at 12:18 pm

    Knowing Max was a gift. We will cherish our fond memories of
    such a great man with a smile that just made you happy and feel welcome!
    Sending our love.
    Rita & Randy

  6. Linda Kautzi on February 21, 2024 at 5:28 pm

    This is a beautiful tribute to a great man. We will miss him and Life Group will not be the same. We are honored to have spent these last years with you both.

  7. Scott Haanstad on February 23, 2024 at 12:07 am

    Hey Coach!
    Thanks for teaching me my putting and short game. I can still hear you when I chip from off the green. “Scott, keep your elbows pressed against your gut”. It made all the difference.

    And thanks for saving the 1979 CHS golf team from the Liberty, MO tornado. If you hadn’t been gracious to Dean Kopulous and stopped at the Excelsior Springs Sonic for Dean’s Coke causing that one minute touch and go, that tornado would have landed on our school bus instead of that car that was plastered against the lime stone wall under the overpass. I recall how you wisely and firmly coached us off the bus saying, “Boys! Get in the ditch!!” where we huddled inside the storm drain under the highway…… We still owe you our lives Coach Hayes Thanks for all the memories Sir.

  8. Robert E. Melson, Jr. on February 25, 2024 at 7:06 am

    This is a wonderful tribute to a man who shaped so many lives. I was blessed to have him coach me at golf during his last few years at Center High School.

  9. Bob Howard "78" on February 25, 2024 at 5:54 pm

    Coach Hayes was an incredible leader, teacher, friend and when needed a loving father to his players and students. I will always be thankful for his presence in my teenage years at Center High School. Class of 1978. We had an amazing undefeated b-ball team in 1976 under his leadership. “Remember the ALAMO”
    One of my favorite memories with Coach Hayes was his chocolate candy bars after he would have on a table in the locker room after we won basketball games.
    RIP Coach, I will miss you

  10. Bob on March 4, 2024 at 5:17 pm

    I had the pleasure of playing a few rounds of golf with Max and his great friend David Morgan. Max is/ was a class act. He was lovingly supported by his wife (Bonnie) of many years. Rip Max; one of a kind.

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