LaVerne Joan Behl

By on November 20, 2008

            LaVerne Joan Behl, 71, resident of Clintonville, Wis., formerly of Elburn, passed away Nov. 14, 2008, at Pine Manor Health Care facility in Clintonville, due to long-term complications from a stroke.

            She was born Jan. 12, 1937, in Chicago, to the late John and Pauline Noga. She had been a resident of Clintonville for the past 20 years, where she was involved in the Clintonville Homemakers Club, volunteered at the Senior Center and was a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Marion (Pella).

            LaVerne graduated from New Buffalo High School in Michigan, where she was a baton-twirling majorette and won the title of Miss Lakeside, Mich., in 1956  (she never let her husband forget that she was once a beauty queen). She was briefly employed at Paramount Die Casting in Stevensville, Mich., and then followed her dream to become a stewardess by graduating from training with North Central Airlines in Milwaukee in 1967. She was based in Minneapolis, Minn., and recalled stories of small paychecks, meals of ketchup mixed in hot water, but exciting travels.

            LaVerne met her husband, Herbert Behl, in Minneapolis, as he was an air traffic controller, and they were invited to the same party, though Herb arrived with another date. LaVerne didn’t like the fact that he had his hand on the other girl’s knee.  They fell in love and married on Nov. 30, 1957, at St. Gall’s Catholic Church in Chicago.

            LaVerne and Herb moved to DeForest, Wis. LaVerne gave up her career as a stewardess and became a telephone operator. She recalled being privy to many juicy party-line conversations. They moved to other communities throughout their marriage and established lifelong friendships during their 50 years together. LaVerne also worked as a secretary, cook, waitress, and some summers at Lodi Canning Factory in Lodi, Wis.

            The most important job to LaVerne, however, was taking care of her husband, home and family. Laverne and Herb raised three daughters and had 11 grandchildren. She began caring for others in her early teens, helping to raise her younger brother, John Jr., and she continued in the caregiver capacity with each of the grandchildren when needed, oftentimes spending days and weeks visiting them in faraway states (and even Iceland, where one grandson was born). 

            LaVerne was also instrumental in the care of Herb’s parents, Herbert Sr., and Gayley Behl, toward the end of their lives, providing meals, assistance with chores, grocery shopping, appointments and everything in between; allowing them to remain as independent as possible.

            Laverne was a loving wife and mother and served as a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, attended hundred of recitals, concerts and sporting events that her daughters were involved in. She taught them to play hard but play nice, and was an inspiration to her daughters. Herb and LaVerne’s steadfast marriage played a vital role in shaping the loving marriages the girls and their husbands cherish today.

            LaVerne opened her home to family and great friends over the years and made being a hostess seem effortless.  Guests were always treated to delicious home-cooked meals, clean linens and cold beer; she wouldn’t sit down until the last course was served and the last dish washed.

            Traveling was a joy to LaVerne, including visits to her children’s homes in Minnesota, Tennessee, North Dakota and North Carolina. Incredible trips with Herb to Hawaii, Alaska (via cruise ship) and most recently, to the Caribbean, where a granddaughter attends medical school, were highlighted by gorgeous views and whale watching.

            In 1999, LaVerne suffered a stroke at the age of 62 that affected the remainder of her life, but didn’t keep her from relearning to walk and talk. Over the years, however, LaVerne became more and more debilitated, and Herb took over her care and maintained their home by himself. LaVerne could no longer do for herself or others, and it was heartbreaking for her to give up such a big part of who she was. Herb stepped up to the job valiantly, but it soon became an  impossible task even for Herb, and Pine Manor graciously accepted LaVerne with open arms. Herb also became a daily fixture—staying for hours with LaVerne each and every day, calling out to other residents by name, chatting with the nurses, pushing wheelchairs and pouring coffee in the cafeteria. Laverne’s years of kindness and hospitality touched everyone she met and will not be forgotten. She pulled weeds in the garden and canned every summer. She had the work ethic of a plow horse, but the grace of a butterfly. She taught her daughters all she knew about domesticity, but LaVerne’s real gift to her family has been her unconditional love and her strong faith in each of them. She would agree that it is very hard work sometimes, but family is always worth the effort.

            LaVerne is survived by her loving husband of more than 50 years, Herbert; their daughters, Karen (Rick) DuChene of Big Lake, Minn., Donna (Jeff) Feuerstein of Neenah, Wis., Nancy (Mark) Foster of New Richmond, Wis.; 11 grandchildren, Kirstin, Amy, Laura, Jodi, Heidi, Sam, Jake, Hannah, Aaron, Joe and Eli. LaVerne is also survived by her brother, John Noga, Jr.; sister-in-laws, Betty Behl, Gayle Grubb and Olive Behl; brother-in-law, Dennis Behl, and many other loving family and friends.

            She was preceded in death by her parents, John and Pauline Noga; her in-laws, Herb and Gayley Behl (who was also like a mother), close aunts, uncles and cousins.

            Funeral services were held Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the Beil-Didier Funeral Home in Clintonville, Wis.  Reverend Doug Helling officiated. Friends called Tuesday from 9 a.m. until time of services at the funeral home.

            The family wishes to thank Pine Manor Health Care staff for the compassionate and gentle care of LaVerne over the past 10 months. You have become a part of their family. They also thanked Bethlehem Lutheran Church clergy and members for all the cards, prayers and visits, as well as the many friends of LaVerne for their love and support of both LaVerne and Herb through the difficult times.

            She loved to dance; she loved to dress up and go to parties, and she can finally dance again. LaVerne’s favorite song was “Stardust.”

            “And now the purple dusk of twilight time steals across the meadows of my heart, high up in the sky the little stars climb, always reminding me that we’re apart. You wander down the land and far away, leaving me a song that will not die. Love is now the stardust of yesterday. The music of the years gone by.”

            The work is done now, mom, you can rest. We love you and will miss you.

            In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund in LaVerne’s name is being established at Pine Manor Health Care Center, Clintonville, WI 54929.