Charles Lavarne was born October 8, 1932, to Charles Edward lifer and his wife, Mary Elizabeth (Griffiths) Lifer at the farm of his grandparents Charles William lifer and Elizabeth (Beth) Lifer and Hammond. His parents divorced in 1937 when he was five years old. Charles was raised by his mother Mary. His mother and sister Dorothy mostly called him Laverne. He attended Eugene Ware Elementary School.
In May of 1941 Mary took Charles and Dorothy to California where she met and married John Labrucherie. John was in the army stationed in San Francisco near the golden gate bridge at the Presidio. Charles lived with his mother in San Francisco, Paso Robles, and Atascadero during World War II. Charles returned to Fort Scott in 1944, where he attended Fort Scott Jr. and Sr high school. Charles graduated high school in 1951.
As small children Charles cared for Dorothy while Mary was away especially during their time in San Francisco. Dorothy shared her gratitude for the way Charles took care for her mother. Dorothy remembers riding in street cars while their mother was at work and meeting her when she got off work. Charles’s mom always appreciated this help. “Dot” told Laverne (Charles) how much that meant to her. Charles loved and adored his sister.
Charles joined the Navy at Navel Olathe Naval Air Station after graduation. He worked in the Navy’s version of Human Resources department doing paperwork to transfer sailors. He had some recruiting duties in Fort Scott and encouraged many of his friends to join the Navy, including Gene Vanatter and Ralph Carlson. He was awarded an AA degree during or just after he was in the Navy. He served in the Navy for 14 Years. He joined the Navy reserves for many more years. Charles would always say, “I was in the Navy for 21 years and was never on a ship.”
While in the Navy, he met and married Dola Rose Howard from Cany, Kansas in 1956. Dola was a nurse in the Army and in the Air Force. They lived in Kansas City in 1965 when their daughter Rebecca was born. Rebecca is Charles’ only child. Rebecca is the widow of both Gary Stufflebeam and Eric Wray, both of Fort Scott.
Charles worked for Sinclair Oil in Kansas City and in Mexico, Missouri. He invested many farms over the years. He owned a farm in the 60’s close to where Highway 69 crosses High Way 55. One farm was in Bronson, Kansas where he was seriously injured by a combine in the late 1990’s. If he didn’t have his old Motorola “car phone” with him, he would not have survived. He was lucky. Some of his land holdings were leased to farmers over the years. At one time he was co-owner of the Fort Scott Sale Barn with his uncle Charles Griffith. In the late 70’s he built and ran the In-and-Out store on old Hwy 54 in Fort Scott. Charles and Dola divorced in 1981.
Charles wanted to make a difference in the world. Charles became interested in humanitarian work after divesting some of his land. Charles met Wilma Davis and a few years after his divorce and together they worked with organization in Ohio and collected and distributed wheelchairs and walkers in many countries including Mexico, Afghanistan, South America and later Kenya. He gave away thousands of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and leg braces with that organizations over the years. In Afghanistan, he gave a wheelchair to one of the Taliban’s’ mother, a thing that made him feel welcomed in that area of the world. When possible, he traveled to each country and personally presented truckloads of wheelchairs. Giving out wheelchairs was his life’s passion. His friend and partner Wilma Passed away in 1997.
In his travels Charles met Jane in Kenya. Charles married Jane in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, by a Navy Chaplain. In Kenya Charles, Jane, Janes sister Margaret and brother-in-law Simon helped form a feeding station for those displaced and an orphanage and for people displaced in ethnic clashes. He was deeply connected to Africa and highly enthusiastic about the work there. Charles and Jane have traveled to Kenya many times in the last decades of his life. Charles called Kenya his second home and was loved by many people, there as well as by the Kenyan Community in Kansas City. Charles gave his life to Jesus Christ and his passion was to help people in Africa, mostly- the hungry, the crippled, and the orphans. Serving the humanitarian needs of the people in Africa was the one thing that brought his the most joy.
Charles is survived by his love and wife Jane, Daughter Rebecca, Sister Dorothy, nephew Scott, nieces Gina and Tracy. Charles is also survived by stepdaughters Vicky, Shinah Hanna and Caren, as well as a large African family from Jane’s family that loved Charles as their stepfather. The orphans and widows that Charles touched in Africa will greatly miss him.
Charles started not feeling well in 2018 and after being in and out of hospital he passed away on September 18, 2022. During his sickness Charles never stopped smiling and touching people. During this period Charles volunteered with Feeding Families at the First United Methodist Church in Fort Scott.
His sister Dorothy (Lifer) Vanatter, and her children express their love and sympathy to his daughter Rebecca. Rebecca is the widow of both Gary Stufflebeam and Eric, both of Fort Scott. They also express their heartfelt love and gratitude for Jane for her love and devotion for her husband, Charles Lifer. The Lifer Family appreciates Jane, her family and friends in Africa and in the Kansas City area what she brought into his life.
Pastor Daniel Kungu will conduct funeral services at 11:00 A.M. Friday, September 30th at the Cheney Witt Chapel. Burial with military honors will follow in the U. S. National Cemetery in Ft. Scott, Kansas. The family will receive friends on Friday from 10:00 A.M. until service time at the Cheney Witt Chapel, 201 S. Main, Ft. Scott, Kansas. Words of remembrance may be submitted to the online guestbook at cheneywitt.com.