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LaVonne was born August 16, 1932, in Marquette, Kansas to Roberta Mann Godwin and C. E. Godwin. She died February 8, 2017, with her husband, Dwight, by her side in their rural Newton home.
LaVonne grew up in Windom, Assaria, Greenleaf, Bern and Long Island, Kansas, where her parents were schoolteachers. She graduated in 1950 from Long Island High School and attended Kansas University (KU), where she graduated with a degree in Home Economics Education in 1954. In addition to her formal education, LaVonne spent her lifetime, learning. When a concern arose and she sensed something was needed that she might accomplish, she set out to learn the skills to do so.
LaVonne joined the Methodist Church in Bern, and while at KU was active in the Methodist Student Movement. She met Dwight Platt in a small discussion group of the Wesley Foundation at KU in 1953. In 1956, she joined Dwight who was by then working for an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) village development project in Barpali Thana, Orissa, India. They were married in Barpali, June 21, 1956. Relationships with the people in this area of deep rural poverty, but cultural richness, had profound influence on her life.
In autumn, 1957, they returned to the United States so Dwight could teach at Bethel College. LaVonne joined the Bethel College Mennonite Church and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in 1958 and continued membership in both for the rest of her life. She participated in many groups as a result of her concerns for peace, social justice and interracial solidarity.
Dwight and LaVonne’s daughter Kamala was born February 6, 1959, and their son Richard was born August 18, 1962. In 1970, the Platt family returned to India where Dwight taught at Sambalpur University and LaVonne conducted research on the effects of the Barpali development project.
LaVonne was a teacher. She taught Home Economics in high school and college; she taught women in a village education program in Orissa; she conducted workshops and seminars on world hunger issues; and she taught junior high Sunday School.
LaVonne was a researcher. She conducted a followup study on the lasting effects of the Barpali development project in Orissa; she tested recipes for the More with Less Cookbook; and she collected nutrition data for a study on aging.
LaVonne was a writer and editor. Freelancing, she wrote articles on many topics, including Christian education, human rights issues and lifestyle choices, that were published in many journals and books; and she edited a newsletter and book on farm issues.
In 1982, she received a grant from the AAUW to research and write a book about Bela Banerjee, a nurse co-worker at the Barpali Project, who trained village health workers throughout India. LaVonne taught herself to use a computer to prepare books for publication, established Wordsworth Publishing Co. and published Bela Banerjee, Bringing Health to India’s Villages (1987) and then published 19 books by other authors with quality manuscripts. She sold books from a selected collection at the Wordsworth Bookroom in the Meadowlark Center and at many events.
LaVonne wrote children’s stories, researched genealogies, sewed, crocheted, played piano and autoharp, sang, grew houseplants, put up many winters worth of garden produce, and welcomed refugees to Newton’s community. Her concerns and interests brought with them ties to many communities. The weft-thread that transverses her life was her desire to seek understanding among people(s).
LaVonne is survived by her husband, Dwight Platt; children, Kamala Platt and Richard Platt (Juliet Brown); brother, Duane Godwin (Nony) and numerous extended family members. She was preceded in death by her parents, C. E. Godwin and Roberta Mann Godwin and brother, Galen Godwin.
A Life Celebration will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, March 16 at the Bethel College Mennonite Church. Memorial contributions may be made to the AAUW to fund Community Action and International Project grants for projects that promote education and equity for women and girls or to the Mennonite Central Committee to fund work with displaced Iraqis, Syrians and Palestinians in the Middle East and with immigrants crossing the southern border of the United States. Donations may be given at the time of the service or sent to the Petersen Funeral Home.
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