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LaVera Gillespie Obituary

Brought to you by Wilson & Kratzer Mortuaries, Civic Center Chapel

LaVera Gillespie

Richmond, California

August 12, 1936 - July 6, 2022

LaVera Gillespie Obituary

LaVera Gillespie

Obituary

LaVera Gillespie was born in Oktibbeha County in Starkville, Mississippi on August 12, 1936, ironically, on Gillespie Street.  She lived in the South until she was a year old.  Her mother, Lillie Gillespie (McClendon) raised her two girls, Robbie Marie and LaVera until they migrated north for a better life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The family moved to Hammond, Indiana where Lillie raised the Robbie and LaVera on Fields Street. They became members of the St. John A.M.E. Church where Julia Lovely, Lillie’s sister, were both pillars of the community and church.  In the tradition of the church and Black community, the entire congregation was responsible for raising the girls under the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

 

Both Robbie and LaVera went to Hammond High School. LaVera was the perfect student, editor of both the school newspaper and yearbook.  She became interested in stenography so she enrolled in Hammond Tech where she learned the stenography trade. While in high school, she took a job as a soda jerk at Kirby’s Confectionary, serving ice cream to local residents.  She met Robert Mardis, her soon-to-be husband, at the creamery, and the two married in 1954.

 

LaVera’s first serious job after high school was with the Hammond Police Department where she worked as a secretary for Chief of Police, John Mahoney, implementing case filings and using her skills to help the department run more efficiently. While at the police department, she took time to continue her studies by riding the South Shore train at the Chicago College of Commerce. 

 

LaVera later acquired a job with the Hammond court systems working for Judge Stadola as a stenographer, and personal assistant.  LaVera took advantage of opportunities in Hammond and saw the potential in the Midwest area for employment and lifestyle. 

 

Her father, Robert Gillespie, fathered a number of other children in the south creating more brothers and sisters for LaVera to love.  She took it upon herself to send for her brothers Robert Gillespie, Jr. and Gardest Gillespie, who came to Hammond and lived with her until they established themselves, before moving to Gary, Indiana. She prided herself in helping her family migrate north to build a better life and to take advantage of the thriving job market.

 

LaVera continued the tradition of helping family members improve their living and employment situations by sending for her little sister, Irish Jean Gillespie who was still living in Starkville. She brought her to Hammond and helped to raise her into a beautiful woman.  Her other brother Bennus moved to Detroit. James “Jimboy” Gillespie moved to Denver. Eugene and Ben Lane moved to Toledo.

 

LaVera’s union with Robert Mardis, who is from Dow, Oklahoma, by way of Cleveland, Ohio, resulted in a fruitful marriage in 1954 in Hammond.  The union produced Rosalyn Carol Mardis and Robert Scott Mardis in 1955 and 56, respectively.  LaVera moved up to another job with the Hammond City Courts and worked for Judge Stadola for a number of years.  She prided herself in helping the people of her quaint East Hammond community by assisting them to maneuver through the court system with the limited resources she acquired.  As she moved up the ladder, she landed a new job at the local level of Hammond’s redevelopment department as a location specialist, servicing the community. At the time, Black residents were only allowed live within the few blocks between Calumet and Columbia, which became a challenge in the area.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

 

LaVera was heavily involved in the social and political scene outside of her home. She joined a number of social and civic groups like “The Unique Bronzettes” who sponsored events and implemented strategies for social change. She was elected President of the Hammond chapter of the Young Democrats and was subsequently invited to John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration and Ball.

 

In 1970, LaVera packed up her white Delmont 88 Pontiac, loaded up her two children, Rosalyn and Robert and headed to Los Angeles, California to tackle yet another new job as a Federal Relocation Specialist. She also worked as a disaster relief coordinator, traveling around the U.S. coordinating housing for disaster victims.  As disasters became more intense, LaVera would rise to the occasion in of service to the victims all over the country as a disaster relief administrator.

 

LaVera worked in that position for two years until landing a job with H.U.D. and was reassigned to San Francisco, where she worked her way up throughout the years to become the “Region 9 Director.” She found herself working with great employees, some of whom turned good friends. She managed a number of territories including California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and the Samoa Islands. This position earned her the accolade of being named the first African-American woman to achieve the position and rise to the rank of GS-15 until she retired in October, 1996. 

 

LaVera moved to Richmond, California and attended St. John A.M.E. to bookend her church going experience with St. John A.M.E. in Hammond, guaranteeing her connection with the Lord and her everlasting life.

 

Although cooking was LaVera’s pastime, it became her source of constant pleasure when preparing elegant meals for friends and family.  She went to great lengths to learn specific culinary skills, which put her on the verge of being an official gourmet cook.  She studied, Thai, Mandarin and other Asian cuisines as she thrilled her friends and family with her augmented array of tasteful treats.  She traveled to far off lands with friends from numerous Caribbean Islands and Europe, to even Russia, learning cuisines of the world. She spent 26 years of her retirement loving life until she became ill.

 

LaVera’s final home was Atlanta, Georgia where she made her transition on July 6, 2022. She received her official wings and solidified her position next to our heavenly father. Although LaVera has touched the lives of many around the country, her spirit is synonymous with the Bay Area where she traversed from Foster City to Mariner’s Island, Millbrae and Richmond.

She was proceeded in death by her father Robert Lee Gillespie, Sr. and mother, Lillie McClendon; sisters Irish Jean Gillespie, Robbie Marie Smith, and brothers, Gardest Gillespie and Eugene Francis Lane.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

LaVera is survived by her daughter, Rosalyn Mardis, son, Robert Mardis; brothers, Robert Gillespie, Bennus Ashford, James “Jimboy” Gillespie, and Ben Lane; grandchildren, Steven Ashford and Kashana Ashford, great grandchildren, Sharina Barnett, LaShae Ashford, Keyshawn Ashford; Anthony Jordan Carreon, Merissa Perez, Robert Perez, Jr., Sean, Ayden and Kamryn-Grace Ashford, Malachi Castillo, Joshua Castillo and Micah Luciano Castillo.  She leaves behind a host of nieces, nephews and cousins. She also has a strong history of family roots within the Gillespie and Gregory family members scattered all over the country, all who have given her years of deep-rooted family love. She will be dearly missed.

*MASKS ARE REQUIRED AT ALL TIMES AT WILSON & KRATZER MORTUARIES- MAX. CAPACITY IS 200 OCCUPANTS*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To share a memory or send a condolence gift, please visit the Official Obituary of LaVera Gillespie hosted by Wilson & Kratzer Mortuaries, Civic Center Chapel.

LaVera Gillespie

Obituary

LaVera Gillespie was born in Oktibbeha County in Starkville, Mississippi on August 12, 1936, ironically, on Gillespie Street.  She lived in the South until she was a year old.  Her mother, Lillie Gillespie (McClendon) raised her two girls, Robbie Marie and LaVera until they migrated north for a better life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The family moved to Hammond, Indiana where Lillie raised the Robbie and LaVera on Fields Street. They became members of the St. John A.M.E. Church where Julia Lovely, Lillie’s sister, were both pillars of the community and church.  In the tradition of the church and Black community, the entire congregation was responsible for raising the girls under the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

 

Both Robbie and LaVera went to Hammond High School. LaVera was the perfect student, editor of both the school newspaper and yearbook.  She became interested in stenography so she enrolled in Hammond Tech where she learned the stenography trade. While in high school, she took a job as a soda jerk at Kirby’s Confectionary, serving ice cream to local residents.  She met Robert Mardis, her soon-to-be husband, at the creamery, and the two married in 1954.

 

LaVera’s first serious job after high school was with the Hammond Police Department where she worked as a secretary for Chief of Police, John Mahoney, implementing case filings and using her skills to help the department run more efficiently. While at the police department, she took time to continue her studies by riding the South Shore train at the Chicago College of Commerce. 

 

LaVera later acquired a job with the Hammond court systems working for Judge Stadola as a stenographer, and personal assistant.  LaVera took advantage of opportunities in Hammond and saw the potential in the Midwest area for employment and lifestyle. 

 

Her father, Robert Gillespie, fathered a number of other children in the south creating more brothers and sisters for LaVera to love.  She took it upon herself to send for her brothers Robert Gillespie, Jr. and Gardest Gillespie, who came to Hammond and lived with her until they established themselves, before moving to Gary, Indiana. She prided herself in helping her family migrate north to build a better life and to take advantage of the thriving job market.

 

LaVera continued the tradition of helping family members improve their living and employment situations by sending for her little sister, Irish Jean Gillespie who was still living in Starkville. She brought her to Hammond and helped to raise her into a beautiful woman.  Her other brother Bennus moved to Detroit. James “Jimboy” Gillespie moved to Denver. Eugene and Ben Lane moved to Toledo.

 

LaVera’s union with Robert Mardis, who is from Dow, Oklahoma, by way of Cleveland, Ohio, resulted in a fruitful marriage in 1954 in Hammond.  The union produced Rosalyn Carol Mardis and Robert Scott Mardis in 1955 and 56, respectively.  LaVera moved up to another job with the Hammond City Courts and worked for Judge Stadola for a number of years.  She prided herself in helping the people of her quaint East Hammond community by assisting them to maneuver through the court system with the limited resources she acquired.  As she moved up the ladder, she landed a new job at the local level of Hammond’s redevelopment department as a location specialist, servicing the community. At the time, Black residents were only allowed live within the few blocks between Calumet and Columbia, which became a challenge in the area.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

 

LaVera was heavily involved in the social and political scene outside of her home. She joined a number of social and civic groups like “The Unique Bronzettes” who sponsored events and implemented strategies for social change. She was elected President of the Hammond chapter of the Young Democrats and was subsequently invited to John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration and Ball.

 

In 1970, LaVera packed up her white Delmont 88 Pontiac, loaded up her two children, Rosalyn and Robert and headed to Los Angeles, California to tackle yet another new job as a Federal Relocation Specialist. She also worked as a disaster relief coordinator, traveling around the U.S. coordinating housing for disaster victims.  As disasters became more intense, LaVera would rise to the occasion in of service to the victims all over the country as a disaster relief administrator.

 

LaVera worked in that position for two years until landing a job with H.U.D. and was reassigned to San Francisco, where she worked her way up throughout the years to become the “Region 9 Director.” She found herself working with great employees, some of whom turned good friends. She managed a number of territories including California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and the Samoa Islands. This position earned her the accolade of being named the first African-American woman to achieve the position and rise to the rank of GS-15 until she retired in October, 1996. 

 

LaVera moved to Richmond, California and attended St. John A.M.E. to bookend her church going experience with St. John A.M.E. in Hammond, guaranteeing her connection with the Lord and her everlasting life.

 

Although cooking was LaVera’s pastime, it became her source of constant pleasure when preparing elegant meals for friends and family.  She went to great lengths to learn specific culinary skills, which put her on the verge of being an official gourmet cook.  She studied, Thai, Mandarin and other Asian cuisines as she thrilled her friends and family with her augmented array of tasteful treats.  She traveled to far off lands with friends from numerous Caribbean Islands and Europe, to even Russia, learning cuisines of the world. She spent 26 years of her retirement loving life until she became ill.

 

LaVera’s final home was Atlanta, Georgia where she made her transition on July 6, 2022. She received her official wings and solidified her position next to our heavenly father. Although LaVera has touched the lives of many around the country, her spirit is synonymous with the Bay Area where she traversed from Foster City to Mariner’s Island, Millbrae and Richmond.

She was proceeded in death by her father Robert Lee Gillespie, Sr. and mother, Lillie McClendon; sisters Irish Jean Gillespie, Robbie Marie Smith, and brothers, Gardest Gillespie and Eugene Francis Lane.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

LaVera is survived by her daughter, Rosalyn Mardis, son, Robert Mardis; brothers, Robert Gillespie, Bennus Ashford, James “Jimboy” Gillespie, and Ben Lane; grandchildren, Steven Ashford and Kashana Ashford, great grandchildren, Sharina Barnett, LaShae Ashford, Keyshawn Ashford; Anthony Jordan Carreon, Merissa Perez, Robert Perez, Jr., Sean, Ayden and Kamryn-Grace Ashford, Malachi Castillo, Joshua Castillo and Micah Luciano Castillo.  She leaves behind a host of nieces, nephews and cousins. She also has a strong history of family roots within the Gillespie and Gregory family members scattered all over the country, all who have given her years of deep-rooted family love. She will be dearly missed.

*MASKS ARE REQUIRED AT ALL TIMES AT WILSON & KRATZER MORTUARIES- MAX. CAPACITY IS 200 OCCUPANTS*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To share a memory or send a condolence gift, please visit the Official Obituary of LaVera Gillespie hosted by Wilson & Kratzer Mortuaries, Civic Center Chapel.

Events

Event information can be found on the Official Obituary of LaVera Gillespie.