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Reaching the century mark- Valpo woman honored by family, friends on her 100th birthday

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on September 27, 2017 with No Comments

by Steve Euvino

LaVanche West reached the century mark in birthdays on Sept. 9. Family and friends honored the retired teacher and Valparaiso resident with a reception in Crown Point.

The year was 1917. The Chicago White Sox defeated the New York Giants four games to two to win the World Series. Oregon defeated Penn 14-0 in the third annual Rose Bowl game. Woodrow Wilson was sworn into his second term as president, as America was about the declare war on Germany and enter World War I.

And on Sept. 9, 1917 in Newton County, Ind., LaVanche West was born.

Now, fast-forward 100 years to Sept. 9, 2017 for a 100th birthday celebration for West in the Maki Ballroom of the Old County Courthouse in Crown Point. Family and friends gathered to honor the long life of this wife, mother, and former teacher.

LaVanche West is seated with her husband Gale; standing is the couple’s son Gary.

For the record, Flora Clemma Roselma “LaVanche” Woodruff and her twin brother, Floran Theron Gideon LaVerne “Bud” Woodruff were born a few minutes apart and on different days. However, their parents, Nellie Hatch and Samuel Gideon Woodruff placed the birth date at Sept. 9. The twins were born in Foresman, near Brook, Ind. The Woodruffs then moved to Earl Park, eventually settling in Terre Haute in 1928.

The centenarian recalls from her earliest years that when she finished her baby bottle, she would grab and finish Bud’s bottle.

LaVanche West is shown with her twin brother “Bud.” The twins had four older brothers.

The twins had four older brothers. Somehow, all six children had the nickname “Woody.” Along with their mother, five of the children graduated with advanced degrees from Indiana State Teachers College in Terre Haute. All of them, including the lone sister, became teachers. The lone non-teacher studied undertaking at Baskins College in Indianapolis.

LaVanche Woodruff married Gale West in 1944. The couple enjoyed a long marriage of 64 years until the husband’s death in 2008.

Starting a household was difficult in the World War II days of rationing, so the couple lived with West’s parents for a few months. In those days, people used kerosene lamps and kept food cold in an ice box.

Gale West worked on a farm and later found work in a magnet factory.

The couple’s only son, Gary West, was born in 1946. He became a noted photographer and had his own photo business and later an antique store. Gary West, who died in 2011, had no children.

LaVanche West went on to teach for 36 years in Indiana and Illinois. She taught in Indiana at Thayer, Lake Village, Morocco, and Richmond. After teaching in Illinois, she returned to her home state, teaching in Crown Point for 11 years. The Wests moved to Valparaiso, where LaVanche spent her final 13 years in the classroom.

LaVanche West was well-liked by her students because she learned the way to discipline young people was not by giving swats or slapping knuckles; rather, she would tell her class that when they settled down, she would continue the lesson.

The retired teacher has enjoyed many friendships in her 100 years. For more than 40 years, women from the neighborhood would meet to play cards. West still hand-writes more than 125 Christmas cards and, until the past few years, she did them in calligraphy.

West also works on genealogy and has written four books on her family line: Kenoyer, Woodruff, Sale, and Rainford.

West has received many awards for her teaching and volunteerism. The Valparaiso Women’s Club named her its Woman of the Year for 2008.

From planes, automobiles, and a man on the moon, West has witnessed much of the progress of the past and current centuries. She received her first computer 20 years ago and received an iPhone a few years ago.

West has enjoyed many things over the years. Her happiest memories revolved around her family. She and Gale West hosted the Woodruff Thanksgiving family reunion for 50 years.

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