Our Mom, Vera LaVonne Oliver (85), has made her transition and is now in the loving arms of God. She passed peacefully in her sleep on Monday, June 17, 2019. She was diagnosed with a heart condition and the seemingly indefinable COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
LaVonne or Vonnie, as she was known to close family and friends, was born in 1934 to Dillon and Mae (Replogle) Gnagy in Rich Hill, Missouri. Her father was a minister for the Church of the Brethren and in 1938 the family moved to a pastorate in Lindsay, California. During World War II the family lived and worked in a Civilian Public Service (CPS) camp for conscientious objectors which her parents directed. During that time she received her education at a one-room schoolhouse. In 1944, the family moved to San Francisco where her father had been called to pastor a developing congregation. The church that was built (in 1946) under his tenure still stands at the corner of 34th Avenue and Noriega Street in San Francisco. The church community was the heart of LaVonne’s childhood. The relationships begun there continue to this day.
LaVonne attended Lawton Elementary School and graduated from Lincoln High School in January of 1952.
In 1961 LaVonne married John Davis at the San Francisco church; the wedding was officiated by her father. They divorced in 1966, and in 1971 LaVonne married a sweetheart from her youth, Joe Oliver. They were together for 21 years; Joe passed away in 2002.
As the youngest of five children, LaVonne was responsible for keeping tabs on her mother. Living nearby in South San Francisco allowed her to do that. Her father had passed away in February of 1965 following his seventh(!) heart attack. By this time, LaVonne was a single parent with two daughters, Lauri and Joan. She worked full-time, rotating shifts and depended on her widowed mother to help watch her girls. Her mother lived to the ripe old age of 94.
LaVonne worked in a variety of office jobs, and gained specific expertise in payroll and bookkeeping. A family friend was the Western Area Dispatch Manager for United Airlines at the San Francisco Airport. Because he knew LaVonne well and was confident in her abilities, he recommended she apply for a position at United; she worked there for 12 years. Notably, she became the first female crew scheduler for the company. She continued working for various businesses utilizing her payroll and bookkeeping expertise. In 1990 she was offered a job as Office Manager for Reliance Machine Products in Fremont and remained devoted to the company for 27 years. She only left (at age 83) when she could no longer easily travel to and from work.
LaVonne was a musician, singer, and organist/pianist. She frequently sang and accompanied church services in her youth. A highlight of her early musical career was accompanying Johnny Mathis while attending San Francisco State University. In later years she continued to serve her church communities as organist, accompanist, and choir director. Her daughters often joined her and they performed as a vocal trio. During the 1990s, LaVonne and her daughters were the music team at Unity of Fremont: LaVonne was the pianist, Joan was the choir director, and Lauri was the song leader.
LaVonne spent many years participating and serving in Al-Anon. She supported her local chapter, served as a sponsor, and spoke at many conferences.
Her hobbies included playing the organ and piano, knitting, crocheting, and she was an avid reader. LaVonne was also a passionate, lifelong NFL and college football fan. As a child, she attended her brother’s football games with her father, who satisfied her endless questions about the game. She loved her San Francisco 49ers and proudly claimed to be 49er Faithful from the very beginning. She was also a technologically up-to-date woman who used an iPhone, an iPad, and a Kindle.
In addition to LaVonne’s mother and father, her siblings all pre-deceased her: Florine Wise, Eugene Gnagy, Dillon Gnagy, and Nita Hodapp; also, two of Eugene’s daughters, Janet and Becky, passed away from cancer.
She is survived by her daughter Lauri (Steve) Falabella of Livermore, California, and her two grandsons, Andrew and Nicolas Falabella; her daughter Joan Davis (Dana Bush) of Dublin, California; 13 nieces and nephews living in California, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, and Washington; and Joe Oliver’s children and grandchildren.
LaVonne’s ashes will be interred at Orange Township Cemetery in South Waterloo, Iowa, beside her parents.
In loving memory of LaVonne, please join us for a Celebration of her Life and Music on Saturday, August 3, 2019, at 2 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church, 4743 East Avenue in Livermore, California. There will be a reception following the service in the Fellowship Hall.
The family is so grateful for the exemplary service, care, and support Mom received from Hope Hospice. Should friends desire to make a memorial contribution, we offer the suggestion of a donation in LaVonne’s name to: Hope Hospice, 6377 Clark Avenue, Suite 100, Dublin, CA 94568-3024.