Lavona Harvey passed away on Friday, November 14, 1997 in Winfield, West Virginia, at the age of 76 from complication due to Binswanger’s Disease, a Parkinson-related neurological disorder. She is survived by her daughter Tanya A. Harvey and her son-in-law, Jay Eiche, of Arlington, Virginia; her daughter Hyla M. Harvey and her son-in-law, Ken O’Connor, and their two children, Kala and Jewel, of Hurricane, West Virginia; her brother Hobart B. Geurin of St. Louis, Missouri; and her brother Gilbert G. Geurin of Las Vegas Nevada. A short graveside service was held on Saturday, November 22, 1997 at the Meharry Cemetery in Wingate, Indiana.
Mother was born on February 22, 1921, in Bonita Louisiana. By 1927 her family moved to a farm close to Linden, Indiana, near her mother’s birthplace. The family had a hard life on the farm. She, and especially her brother Hobart, bore the brunt of the farm work after their father went blind. Yet, she was valedictorian of her 1939 Romney High School class and earned the Citizenship Award from the Daughter of the American Revolution. Mother wanted to teach and received a scholarship to Indiana State Teacher’s College in Terre Haute. In 1942 she was listed in the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She was a member of the Pi Omega Pi and Kappa Delta Pi scholastic honor societies. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in 1943. Subsequently she taught in Richmond, Lafayette and West Point, Indiana.
She then worked her way through the University of Denver’s Master of Business Administration program and received her MBA in 1948. Teaching was her passion, as was Indiana, and she returned to teach in Remington and Logansport. By all accounts, she was an energetic and enthusiastic teacher of home economics and business classes. She performed many volunteer and extracurricular functions—she choreographed school plays, she regularly chaperoned dances, she was advisor to all sorts of groups, including New Reporters, the Sunshine Girls, and was the 1951 class advisor.
In 1953, she fell in love with Bill Harvey, one of the “boys” from Purdue rooming at her mother’s boarding house in Lafayette. They were married on July 3, 1954 and traveled the Southwest for the next two years while my father worked as an engineer (or doodlebugger) on an Atlantic Refining seismographic team searching for oil. During this time, mother taught in Texas and New Mexico. In 1956 she returned to the Rochester, NY, area where my father grew up as he had taken a job as an electrical engineer with Rochester Gas and Electric.
They settled down on an acre of land in Honeoye Falls and Mother then began her homemaking days with much energy. Hyla and I were born in the late 50’s. Mother and Daddy had a substantial garden and many fruit trees. Mother routinely canned 350+ quarts of various fruits and vegetables (later she took to freezing), she caned chairs, sewed, was very active in the League of Women Voters, was a founding member of the local Totiatken Garden Club, was an officer in a local investment club and a literacy volunteer for the Each One-Tech One organization She was very busy. She took good care of us.
In 1961 her mother, Estella Lavona Marie Beach Geurin, Died. Her parents had long since been divorced. In 1962 her father dies. Mother became depressed and started her life-long fight against bi-polar or manic depressive, disorder. She fought that battle until the last year of her life. Whenever she got depressed, my father would ready a car, give her plenty of traveler’s checks and send her to Indiana—as that always helped lift her spirits. She loved to see family, friends, and former students, oftentimes on impromptu visits.
After a severe depression and related hospitalizations in 1972, she got involved with Recovery, Inc., a nation-wife health support group. It helped her enormously and she went on to be involved for over twenty years, and was a group leader for over ten of those years. Hyla and I recall the Recovery help line being in our home for many years and mother taking hundreds of calls in an effort to help people. She was aggressive in her drive to let the world know that good mental health is important and your problems were not something you should be embarrassed about, but something which you could do something about. She went to countless health Fairs to let people know of Recover and how it could help them.
Despite this fight, she continued to teach from 1963 into the 1970’s, and substituted well into the 1980’s. In the early-mid 1980’s, she and my father travelled extensively with us. Hyla was living and going to medical school in Northern Italy and I was stationed in Germany and Italy with the Army JAG Corps. We toured most of Europe and Russia, and she and Daddy loved those times together.
Some other things bear mention about my mother. She was very smart, as is often the case with bi-polar individuals. She was fiercely independent and well into her 60’s she would make long car trips to Indiana. She was outspoken and would always tell people exactly what she thought—although we may have cringed. She was often willing to go to all lengths to help people, whether they were friends of absolute strangers. She was ever so thrifty due to her home economics background and living through the depression—in fact, in the summertime, virtually everything we ate was from out garden. She took recycling to new heights and started it in the late 60’s, before recycling was fashionable. But beneath is all, she had a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody, with her motto being “Do unto other as you wish them to do unto you.”
In 1986, when Daddy died due to heart problems, life became more difficult for her. In 1989 she struggled through open heart surgery for a valve transplant. She became a bit more eccentric. But she was still determined to maintain a completely independent lifestyle as long as she could, which lasted until she has a bad case of shingles in Fall 1994. That triggered the symptoms related to neurological disorder. The past year was especially challenging for her as the Parkinson-type symptoms worsened.
We are happy that she was well cared for at assisted care facilities near Hyla and Ken. We are also happy that she was able to see her two granddaughters that Hyla and Ken adopted from Indian this past August (Kala is almost 5 and Jewel is 2). And it seems only fitting that mother was a teacher to the end—putting the residents at her small adult home in line when they got out of hand. We have learned from her and are better people for having known her. We will miss her.
[as supplied by Tanya A. Harvey]
Note written by