We lost our beloved Lavonda Carol "Vondy" Laughlin on the morning of Monday, June 10, 2013, in Anchorage. Vondy was born July 8, 1960, in Canadian, Texas, to Maryland "Nell" and Ben Laughlin. The family moved to Fairbanks during winter of 1966.
As a youngster and throughout life, Vondy was tough and she loved the outdoors. She and her sisters, Morina and Regina, were active in Brownies and Girl Scouts. Vondy was always on her dad's heels, ready to go hunting, fishing and camping. Off she'd go in her high top boots, eager for the beauty and challenge Alaska offered.
She graduated from Lathrop High School, in 1978, with a UAF basketball scholarship. Ball playing sent her all over Alaska and several times to the Lower 48. She enjoyed wonderful trips to Australia and Hawaii with the Lathrop basketball team. Vondy was a naturally skilled athlete, thrilled by all sports, especially basketball and softball - which took her to Seattle for regionals.
Vondy had an arm like a missile launcher. In '78, she won a softball throw, out distancing all competing men and women. Anyone watching might have wished they too could "throw like a girl."
As an adult, life threw Vondy a curveball. She was diagnosed with a mental illness. Her way of experiencing and perceiving the world goes by the name schizophrenia. Many in the family did not understand the illness and so could not teach her, yet learned through her. Lavonda loved her family dearly.
When she was good, she was good, and when she was bad, she was bad. Like anyone else, she had her days. Although requiring guidance and help in daily life, she was never one to ignore the struggles of others. When she could, she helped those in need. Being kind and compassionate to others made her feel needed and appreciated.
Friendships came easy, for she would talk with nearly anyone and was interested in how people lived and managed daily life. She knew a lot of folks and sometimes let them into her world. She allowed people to be her friends.
She was a client of Community Mental Health and sometimes volunteered for the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). She and her mom, Nell, participated in the first NAMI Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), for the Fairbanks Police Dept., in 2007. Vondy assisted the Salvation Army at functions with Major Green and his wife, and helped in the afterschool program. With her mom, she volunteered for the Literacy Council of Alaska and she helped out during the early days of the Rag Co.
Ever the sports enthusiast, Vondy, along with two nephews, T.J. and Joel, refereed youth hockey at the Big Dipper and UAF. Vondy also worked ski patrol on Fort Wainwright. She enjoyed arts, crafts, jewelry-making and bicycle riding around town. Many will remember Vondy. She was unique, friendly and empathetic, and she is missed.
Surviving to cherish her memory are her mom, Maryland "Nell" Laughlin, of Fairbanks; dad, Benjamin Laughlin, of Homer and Texas; sister, Morina Laughlin, of Fairbanks, and nephew, Joel Thornell, of Pa.; great-nephews, Joshua, Darin and Joseph Thornell; niece, Jewelina, and her husband, Gary Jr.; and great-nieces, Alissa and Kayanna Healy, of Fairbanks; her sister, Regina, and husband Jack Elkins; nephews, T.J. Reed and Dylon Elkins; great-nephews, T.J. Jr., Tyler, and Jaden; niece, Starla Patterson; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins in Florida, Illinois, Texas and Russia.
She is preceded in death by her grandma and grandpa Turner, grandma and grandpa Laughlin, uncle Henry Turner, and uncle Dale Byram.
Lavonda is at peace now, no longer suffering an illness so little understood. Her soul is light, enveloped in beauty and love, and in our hearts forever. God bless Vondy.
A memorial gathering will begin at noon, on July 22, 2013, at The Salvation Army, 1602 10th Ave., in Fairbanks. Major Kevin and Tina Bottjen will officiate.
Donations may be made in her name to NAMI of Fairbanks, P.O. Box 72543, Fairbanks, AK 99707, or Literacy Council of Alaska, 517 Gaffney Road, Fairbanks, AK 99701, or Fairbanks Center for Worship and Service, The Salvation Army.