Zilla LaVerne was born feet first at the home of her maternal grandparents, Rufus Ira and Lizzie Lattner Ellis in Edgewood, Texas. Her parents were Grady Leroy and Lilla Dee Ellis Luce of Beaumont, Texas. At the time of her birth, her Dad worked for Bell Telephone Company and as was customary, sent his pregnant wife plus their 3 year old son, Arthur Ellis "Buck" Luce to her parents' home for LaVerne's delivery. It was an uncomplicated delivery and after LaVerne's birth, a telegram was sent to Beaumont informing her father of her birth. The...
Zilla LaVerne was born feet first at the home of her maternal grandparents, Rufus Ira and Lizzie Lattner Ellis in Edgewood, Texas. Her parents were Grady Leroy and Lilla Dee Ellis Luce of Beaumont, Texas. At the time of her birth, her Dad worked for Bell Telephone Company and as was customary, sent his pregnant wife plus their 3 year old son, Arthur Ellis "Buck" Luce to her parents' home for LaVerne's delivery. It was an uncomplicated delivery and after LaVerne's birth, a telegram was sent to Beaumont informing her father of her birth. The telegram got stuck in some other mail and so LaVerne's Dad did not know of her birth for several weeks. LaVerne's Mom wanted to name her Billie LaVerne but Grandpa Rufus vetoes that saying that it was a boy's name. So, LaVerne's first name became Zilla after her mother's twin sister, Zilla Epps. LaVerne never liked the name but in her later years had to use it for medical and legal reasons and she made peace with it.
In 1936, Buck and LaVerne and their parents moved from Dallas to Austin and eventually lived at 4614 Rosedale. LaVerne was an active, freckle faced little girl who loved dogs and had a lot of friends. She graduated from Austin High School in 1941 and was beginning to be physically beautiful. She entered The University of Texas-Austin when she was barely 18 and in addition to her classes, worked for the Cactus, the UT yearbook. She was engaged to another student from NY named Phil LaSalle and he eventually left to become a pilot during WWII.
After a year and a half at UT, LaVerne decided that she wanted to become a registered nurse and entered Seton School of Nursing. WWII was full blown and LaVerne and some of her friends went to the USO on Congress Avenue to socialize with the homesick soldiers from Bergstrom AFB. While there in March of 1943, LaVerne looked up and a gorgeous airman from Pennsylvania was coming down the stairs with his best friend, Dave Turner. LaVerne always said that T/Sgt. Bernie Larson looked like a Viking Warrior and she fell madly in love with him at first sight. She wrote her fiancé a 'Dear John' letter and she and Bernie married on April 29, 1943 at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas. Since married women could not attend nursing school, she dropped out of school.
Shortly after their marriage, LaVerne and Bernie took a train to Pennsylvania to meet Bernie's parents and siblings and he could introduce his new bride. They then went on to NYC and began their love of travel. During their almost 66 year old marriage, they traveled all over the 50 states, Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the British Isles. While traveling, they often attended church and sang in some great European cathedrals as both Bernie and LaVerne had beautiful voices. They were members of the Austin Saenguerrunde choirs.
LaVerne and Bernie had 3 children. Cherry Eileen was born in 1944. Bernard William, Jr. was born in 1947 and Lindsay Leroy was born in 1954. LaVerne adored her children and they adored her. She was a stay at home mom until Lindsay started school. She then began working for the State of Texas from which she retired in 1978. In 1979, she worked 5 years for SW Bell Telephone Company and officially retired in 1984. Bernie's time of watching The World Turns came to an abrupt halt with LaVerne's 'honey do' list.
At the time of her retirement, LaVerne became very active in Saenguerrunde, DAR, DRT, Colonial Dames of America, Colonial Dames of XXVI, The Edward Doty Society and the Society of Mayflower Descendants. She traveled all of the United States checking archives, cemeteries and doing genealogical research. She loved doing this and has written four published stories on the Luce/Ellis families. She also wrote a book of Bernie's WWII experiences and they often attended military reunions of the 25th AF Squadron. She was also a great seamstress, crocheter, knitter, and cook and she made jeweled Christmas stockings for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
LaVerne and Bernie were very active church goers and attended Trinity Lutheran Church and were charter members of the Lord of Life Lutheran Church. At the time of her passing, she was an active member of Christ Lutheran Church.
In 2008, Bernie became ill and LaVerne cared for him for ten months before his eventual death on February 21, 2009. She was a wonderful, loving caregiver for this man she was passionately in love with for 66 years.
As so often happens after a couple has had a great love and one passes, LaVerne became very lonely and met Clyde Crow, Jr. Clyde had been in LaVerne's class at Austin High School and was stationed at Bergstrom AFB when Bernie was there. However, their paths did not cross until March of 2009. They married July of 2009 and were loving companions. Clyde was a very devoted caregiver during LaVerne's illnesses and he survives her.
LaVerne is also survived by her three children: Dr. Cherry Larson Cunningham (Reverend Dr. Ron) of Denison, Bernard Larson Jr. (Cindy) of Volente and Lindsay Larson (Brenda) of Bertram. She is survived by 5 grandchildren: Scott Christopher Cunningham, Kristin Elizabeth Larson Loken (Chad), Carrie Ann Larson, Kristina Dawn Larson Bizzell (Jason) and Jordan Andrew Larson (Julia). She is also survived by 4 great grandchildren: Nathaniel Aidan Larson, Trinity Aerica Frost, Elizabeth Anne Bizzell and Hudson David Bizzell. In addition to her husband Bernie, she was preceded in death by her parents Grady and Lilla Luce, brother, Arthur Ellis Luce (Marjorie) and great granddaughter Gracie Lynn Bizzell.
LaVerne came into this world feet first and was an active ball of fire for most of her 93 years. She was the alpha female of the Larson clan and her opinions greatly mattered to all of her family. She will be intensely missed as the divine being she was.
Her funeral schedule is as follows:
Visitation will be from 9:30-11 am at Christ Lutheran Church, 300 E Monroe in Austin, Texas 78704 on October 20, 2016. Pastor John Stennfeld will officiate LaVerne's funeral. Funeral Service will follow from 11:00-12:00 pm with reception from 12:00-1:00 pm. Graveside will be held in Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, 2800 Hancock Drive in Austin, Texas 78731.
Serving as pallbearers are Jordan Larson, Chad Loken, Jason Bizzell, Michael McPherson, Richard Allison and Chris Crow. Serving as honorary pallbearers are Scott Cunningham, Nathaniel Larson, Hudson Bizzell, Cole Moore and Caid Moore.
The family asks for NO FLOWERS but that memorials can be made in LaVerne's name to Christ Lutheran Church.