Lawrence Gregory Vavra, 78

Lawrence Gregory Vavra, 78, originally from Lonsdale MN, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his wife and children on Friday, May 10, 2019 in Kennewick WA.

Lawrence “Larry” was born on May 9, 1941 on the family farm called “The Brown Place,“ located on County Rd. 61 (also called Circle Lake Trail) outside of Lonsdale, near Millersburg.

His parents, Agnes Rose Pavek and James Charles Vavra were married in 1938 and divorced in 1948, when Larry was seven. There were four sons from that marriage: Jim, Larry, Vernon “Mike” and Gerald “Jerry.”  After the divorce, Agnes and the boys moved from Lonsdale to St. Paul. The boys were also often shuttled between different aunts and his grandparents in the Lonsdale/New Prague area. Agnes’ father, Wencil “James” Thomas Pavek, ruled his grandsons with an iron hand, but nevertheless, Larry looked up to him and to his grandmother Anushka Mary Zelenka Pavek (Agnes). Larry always spoke of the time he spent with his brothers out on Grandpa Pavek’s farm, as the happiest time of his childhood.

Czech was Larry’s first language, and in first grade he had to learn English. During their growing-up years, Larry and his brothers stayed close and stuck up for each other when the situation called for it. Larry and his brothers were raised almost as siblings alongside various cousins and extended family. In particular, Larry’s uncle Joe Pavek was a big influence on him. Joe was 10 years older, and was really more like an older brother.

It was Joe that had inspired Larry to go into aviation mechanics. Joe had tried to get into the Army but was rejected due to having flat-feet, not a good thing for infantry work. So Joe went to the Air Force recruiter, who signed him up. He became an airplane mechanic and he sent home a picture of himself standing on a wing of a plane in his work uniform wearing a baseball cap tilted at an angle and a big grin on his face. Young Larry thought that Joe looked so cool that he decided right then that he was going to follow him into aviation mechanics.

Because of the family circumstances, Larry attended three different high schools: Cretin High School in St. Paul (now called Cretin-Derham High School) from 1955 - 1957, New Prague High School from 1957 - 1958, and Monroe High School in St. Paul his senior year, 1958 - 1959. He graduated from Monroe High, class of ‘59.

At 17 years old, Larry fudged about his age on a job application and said that he was 18. He landed the job, an all-night gig sweeping the parking lot of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. One night he went to the airport controller’s office to get change for the vending machine, and there he met Linda Lou Wayer who was working as a switchboard operator. Their first date was January 16, 1960, and Linda and Larry were married August 6, 1961. By the time of the wedding, Larry was attending Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa OK, studying to get an airline mechanics license. After their marriage, Linda and Larry lived in a small trailer.

Their first child, Laura Lynn, was born (in Minneapolis) in 1962. After finishing his program and attaining an “A&P” airplane mechanics license, Larry was hired by United Airlines to work in the San Bruno California maintenance base, on December 18, 1962. So the young family moved to California, landing for a time in Hayward, and then eventually moving to the Warm Springs district of Fremont CA. Larry and Linda’s son Loren Gerald was born in 1964, and then twin daughters Lisa Louise and Lila Lorraine in January 1966.

Larry flew the family back to Minnesota every year; to him family connections were important. He also took the family to Hawaii and to New York/Washington DC once, and in 1970, on a summer driving trip from California to Minnesota in the ‘69 Volkswagen van, camping in national parks along the way. Larry loved camping, fishing, and being out in nature. The family tent-camped every summer, for years, at Grizzly Creek outside of Nevada City, California. Those trips included swimming in the ice cold waters of the Yuba River, after a hearty breakfast of eggs and pancakes that he cooked on a Coleman stove in the fresh mountain air. He spoke of those times as the happiest of his adult life.

Larry retired from UAL in on April 1, 1997 after 34-1/2 years working in San Bruno. By this time, he had moved the family to Manteca, CA, a small town in the San Joaquin Valley. After retirement, he lived in other places too, namely, Coulterville CA, Phoenix, AZ, and Tri Cities, WA. He also managed to visit Prague, Czech Republic twice; once in 1996 with his brother Mike, and again a couple of years later, with Linda.

An important milestone in Larry’s life was that in the late 1970s, after the death of his beloved brother Jerry in 1976, he went through a period of struggle and soul searching, and he converted from Roman Catholic to Seventh Day Adventism. His faith was a comfort to him his last year as he was dying from end-stage renal failure.

Thursday, May 9th was his 78th birthday. His family and a few friends sang to him and he had a bite of birthday cake. “That’s good,” he said, “give me another.” And then on Friday, May 10, 2019 at 7:33 p.m., his struggles came to an end. His wife and children were around him.

He will be remembered for the commitment that he had for family, and also for his tender heart for animals and for people living in difficult circumstances. He always remembered the economic struggles he’d had as a kid, and so he was always willing to help out a stranger, with clothes, money, or a place to stay. He also had a tender heart for animals, rescuing many cats, dogs, and other animals over the years. He’ll be remembered for his loyalty, persistence, and unwavering commitment to his family, as well as for his faith in God and in doing what’s right as he understood it.

Per his desire, Larry’s ashes will be interred at Calvary Hill Cemetery in Lonsdale, between the graves of his grandfather Wencil “James” Pavek and grandmother Anushka “Agnes” Zelenka Pavek, on June 16, 2019 at noon. The address of the cemetery is 8299 80th W, Lonsdale, located where Idaho St W turns into 80th St W. Music will be provided by the Pilgrim Singers USA. Afterwards, family and friends are invited to gather at 1:30 p.m. in the American Legion Hall in Lonsdale, located at 115 2nd Ave. SW. Folks are requested to wear blue, not black, as it was his favorite color and this was what we promised him we’d wear.

Larry was preceded in death by his beloved grandparents, Wencil “Jim” and Anushka Pavek, parents Agnes (Pavek) Vavra and Jim Vavra, his stepmother Lucille Vavra, brothers Gerald “Jerry” Vavra and Jim Vavra, uncles Jim, John, Joe, and Francis “Fritz” Pavek, aunts Lillian Fedje and Adeline Stenvick, parents-in-law Max and Geri Wayer, and step-brother Germain “Jim” Sonnichson.

He is survived by his wife Linda (Wayer) Vavra; children Lila (spouse, Randy Watson) of Kennewick WA, Lisa (spouse, Rob Biando) of Marysville, CA, Loren (spouse, Melissa Davis) of Phoenix AZ and Maui HI, and Laura Zelenka of San Miguel de Allende Mexico; brother Vernon “Mike” Vavra of St. Paul Park MN; aunt Julia Bild of Cottage Grove MN; step-brother Roger Sonnichson and his partner Michael Coffee of Minneapolis MN; brother-in-law and sister-in-law Kenneth and Marilyn Stoffel of Minneapolis MN; high school friend John Parnell (spouse Sue) of Maplewood MN; many loving cousins, nieces and nephews, and many friends from the Seventh Day Adventist churches of Waterford CA, Tempe AZ, and Tri Cities WA as well as friends from the Solstice Senior Living Community of Kennewick, WA.

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