Lavonne Alice Dean, 86, helped revive a failing church in Chester County

Posted: November 01, 2013

WHEN THE United Methodist Church in Parkesburg, Chester County, needed a shot in the arm, Lavonne Alice Dean was there with the needle.

Metaphorically speaking, of course, but Lavonne was a key to the rejuvenation of a church that sorely needed help. Its congregation had diminished to the point that there was a real chance it might go out of business.

But Lavonne dived in with her customary energy and devotion, and helped the Rev. Mark Deideman get the institution back on its feet to make it the thriving center of worship it is today.

Lavonne joined with the pastor in seeking ways to bring back parishioners who had strayed and attract new members.

"We were down to nothing," Deideman said. "It was her valiant efforts that helped right the ship. She was very diligent, very loyal. She was a jack-of-all-trades at the church.

"She was also very outspoken. She was not afraid to tell you what was on her mind."

Lavonne Dean used this loyalty and drive in every cause she undertook in her busy life, most especially women's rights - a cause that took her all the way to China.

She died Friday of complications of Alzheimer's disease. She was 86 and was living at the Caring Heart nursing home in Germantown.

As a volunteer with the National Organization for Women, Lavonne traveled to China in 1995 to take part in the Fourth World Conference on the Status of Women, sponsored by the United Nations.

She was one of 1,700 people who attended from all over the world. The conference assessed the problems confronting women in many countries, especially developing ones, and issued manifestos for improving the lives of women everywhere.

Lavonne was born in Magnolia, Minn., to William Henry and Mamie Richards. She graduated from the Magnolia Secondary School and moved to the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, to work for the former Armour & Co. meatpacking plant.

She worked for the Veterans Administration from 1952 to 1982 as a computer programmer and analyst. While there, she joined the Naval Reserve, serving from 1956 to 1960.

She retired from the VA in 1982.

Lavonne moved to the Philadelphia area and lived in Lafayette Hill and Valley Township, Chester County, where she became active with the Chester County Democratic Committee.

She was married to Richard Lefebre, of Lebanon, Conn. The marriage ended in divorce.

"She was full of energy," said her son, Jon Pierre Lefebre, of Wayne. "She couldn't sit still. Even after suffering a stroke, she disdained the use of a walker."

When she was living at the Spring Mill Senior Living facility in Chester County, she was constantly walking around the grounds, he said.

"She was very smart," he said, "and always very busy."

Lavonne was also an avid gardener, enjoyed crossword puzzles and traveled frequently.

Besides her son and former husband, she is survived by two grandchildren.

Services: 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at Parkesburg United Methodist Church, 411 Main St., Parkesburg. Burial will be in the family plot in Worthington, Minn.

Donations in her memory may be made to the Alzheimer's Association,

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