Lavaun A. Dunning
December 7, 1914 ~ September 19, 2013
Lavaun A. Dunning (Agnes Lavaun Aasen) was born December 7, 1914 to Alice and Louis Aasen on a small dairy farm near Arago, in Coos County, in southwest Oregon. She had one brother, Steve, seven years younger. As young children, they learned to love animals and the outdoors. After high school in Arago, Lavaun graduated from Southern Oregon Normal School, in Ashland. She taught in small country schools for five years, until her marriage to Jess L. Dunning in 1939. They lived in Washington and southwest Oregon for the first few years of their marriage, eventually settling in Eugene, OR, where they raised their family of four children. Jess taught full time, while Lavaun was a homemaker and substitute teacher, later teaching full time when the children were all in school. She went back to school at the University of Oregon, completing a BS degree, and an upgraded teaching certificate in 1960, just before their oldest daughter began college.
Having grown up amidst fields and forest, Lavaun especially loved the forest. The many varieties of trees, ferns, and wild flowers; the thimble berries, huckleberries, miner’s lettuce, the salal berries—it was all her sacred space, her garden. She was also devoted to gardening at home, sharing produce, plant starts and regularly bringing bouquets to church on Sundays. Camping and hiking were included in family vacations every summer, when she enthusiastically called attention to the beauty of God’s World.
Their Christian faith was central to who Lavaun and Jess were. They served in many ways in the Church of the Brethren throughout their lives. From young adulthood, well into their senior years, they devoted countless hours to building and caring for the Church of the Brethren camp, Camp Myrtlewood, in southwest OR—including moving their family with two young children (ages one and three) and the family cow, to the camp for the whole summer of 1945. Lavaun, at age 16, had first attended a youth camp at Camp Myrtlewood; she attended nearly every year following until 2012, when she attended family camp there for the last time at age 97.
Lavaun and Jess served for six months in Brethren Volunteer Service in the Appalachians in 1975, after they retired from teaching. They lived out their strong belief in peace in various ways, including being part of a peace pilgrimage to Japan in 1985, on the 40th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They loved their family deeply, yet still opened their hearts and home to others, including international students and many more people over the years.
Lavaun created many beautiful and practical items during her long life—everything from paintings to terrariums to quilts—and delighted in giving handmade gifts. She was a very creative teacher, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, as well—sharing lots of hands-on activities. She enjoyed taking children on nature walks and helping them create candles in beach sand at the ocean.
Jess and Lavaun moved to Wenatchee in 1995 and became active members of the Sunnyslope Church. They enjoyed events with family and friends, and Lavaun continued with her gardening and creative projects. After Jess died in 2002, Lavaun lived in Wenatchee for three more years, and then, at age 90, made her last move—to live at Friendsview Retirement Community in Newberg, OR. She made new friends there, and enjoyed trips to visit family.
Lavaun Aasen Dunning spent her last few days surrounded by her four grown children, before returning Home to her Maker on September 19, 2013. The extended family (including children and spouses, many grandchildren and great grandchildren) and numerous friends held a Celebration of Life service on September 28, 2013 at the Peace Church of the Brethren in Portland, OR.
Lavaun was preceded in death by her first-born son, Leelan Paul (who died at birth); her husband, Jess; and her brother, Steve. Her survivors include daughters, Vona da Silva (Richard Silva) of Portland, OR; Karen Dunning-Wells (Bob Wells) of Wenatchee; Phyllis Soto (Pieter Tillema) of Diamond Bar, CA; and son, David Dunning (Libbi Lepow) of Portland, OR.
Memorial donations may be sent to Camp Myrtlewood, Habitat for Humanity, or Heifer International, all of which Lavaun supported enthusiastically.
Lavaun will be very much missed, but special memories warm the hearts of all who knew her.