LaVonne J. Stavig, aged 93, died in her sleep on November 14, 2021, at her residence in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Born in 1928 in Garretson, South Dakota, LaVonne was the middle daughter of Norman and Josephine Engebretson. She attended Garretson schools and graduated from high school in 1946. By age 10 she was taking piano lessons, and her singing talent became evident by her teens. Music, both performing and attending concerts, remained her greatest interest throughout her life. It seems fitting that she met her future husband, fellow choir member Richard 'Dick' Stavig, while on a choir tour of western states in her freshman year at Augustana College. They became close and stayed in contact throughout her junior year 'abroad' at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where she sang and toured with the world famous St. Olaf Choir. LaVonne and Dick married soon after 'Augie' graduation.
The newlyweds moved to New Jersey when Dick started graduate school at Princeton University. LaVonne soon found work at the Westminster Choir College and continued her musical pursuits, including a performance at the Princeton President’s house. Dick's first college faculty position took them to Pennsylvania and their daughter Jofrid was born there. In 1955 the family moved to Kalamazoo, which became their lifelong home. They quickly became part of the close Kalamazoo College community where Dick taught English. Within a few years another daughter was born, and Dick was appointed Director of the college’s new study abroad program. The whole family enjoyed the European travel that came with the job, including extended stays in Heidelberg and Bonn, Germany, and Vichy, France.
LaVonne continued singing with Kalamazoo music groups, the Old Music Society and Thursday Morning Musicale among them. She studied voice with Mabel Overley for many years, always striving to refine her technique and develop the clarity and range of her voice. She joined the First Presbyterian Church and its Choir, a membership that lasted over 60 years. Dick and LaVonne were fixtures on the local classical music scene, rarely missing a performance.
Once her daughters reached their teens, LaVonne decided to study library science, and received her M.L.S. degree from WMU in 1972. She began her library career that year in the Kalamazoo Public School system, starting at Loy Norrix High School. By 1980 she became the librarian at Milwood Junior High. She retired in 1986. Retirement brought travels in Europe and the U.S., and the 'snowbird' life in Sarasota, Florida.
LaVonne also took up tennis in midlife, becoming a proficient player and competing in leagues, often joined by Dick in doubles. She also volunteered for the national tennis tournament held at the college, and they both attended many of the matches each August.
The cultural life of Sarasota attracted them, and they subscribed to the Sarasota Opera and Sarasota Orchestra throughout their years there. As Florida winters were ideal for outdoor tennis, they joined a tennis club and competed in leagues in the area. And, of course, they enjoyed dining out with new friends and other Kalamazoo snowbird friends, and welcomed visitors from all over.
LaVonne was the family 'social director', and worked hard at planning outings and activities as Dick began to suffer from dementia. After Dick's death, she was sustained by friends and family, and frequent visits by her 'granddog' Liebchen. She was proud of her daughters, and welcomed both of their husbands into the family. LaVonne will be remembered as a perfectionist who worked hard and maintained high standards in everything she did. She reveled in social contact, and treasured her many friends.
She also had a lifelong love of clothes and developed a distinctive, elegant style. Her eye for good design extended to her homes, which were always beautifully decorated and immaculately maintained.
LaVonne is survived by her daughters and their husbands, Jofrid (Steve Knoebber) of Vicksburg, MI, and (names withheld), sister Mary Lou Schmidt, sisters-in-law Bonnie Stavig and Donna Stavig, and many extended family members. She was preceded in death by her husband Richard, her parents, and sister Norma Joyce. The Stavig family wishes to thank the Vibrant Life Senior Living community for their solicitous care of LaVonne in her last years of life.
A memorial service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, Kalamazoo, on December 14, at 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in LaVonne's memory to the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Bach Festival, The Gilmore Piano Festival, Fontana Chamber Arts, or Connecting Chords Music Festival.
While visiting LaVonne's tribute page please take a moment to light a candle or share a memory with the family. The Stavig family is being assisted by Avink Funeral Home & Cremation Society, 5975 Lovers Ln, Portage, MI 49002. 269-344-5600.