LaVerne S Dieterich

LaVerne S Dieterich

November 10, 1926 ‐ March 25, 2023
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio Resided In: Bay Village, Ohio Service: May 06, 2023 Cemetery: Evergreen Cemetery

LaVerne Dieterich, nee Sanker, who went from being an only child on the east side of Cleveland to the matriarch of a more than 30-person clan that has spanned three continents, died on March 25 in Bay Village, Ohio. She was 96. 
Her sons were at her bedside at the Hospice of the Western Reserve, where she spent her final days after a heart attack. 
In more than seven decades of family life, LaVerne was a rock of stability, encouragement and care for her far-flung family. She also maintained an ever-growing social circle, from her next-door neighbor and jacks partner at the age of 6, who became a lifelong friend, through bridge partners, church groups and companions found at The Normandy and O’Neill Healthcare, where she spent her final years. 
Each new generation was a chance to see children “grow and be their best selves,” LaVerne wrote in a family history in 2014. “Here I am again blessed.” 
LaVerne was born on Nov. 10, 1926. She spent her childhood with her mother Gladys B.S. Leising, grandmother Frederika Benhoff and aunt Eleanor Cech in what she recalled as a “big old house with a great front porch.” Her parents were divorced, and though she had less contact with her father Freeman (Mike) Sanker as a child, she reconnected with him as an adult. 
“I remember my grandmother was the one who stoked the furnace with coal,” she wrote. “Our house had an ice box, and I recall the iceman coming to carry in the big chunk of ice. Daily we had to empty out the pan which held the drippings.”
LaVerne attended Empire Jr. High School and John Hay High School, where she learned stenography and bookkeeping, skills that would help ensure her independence throughout her life. Her membership in the Rainbow Girls, a youth Masonic organization, helped define her teenage years. The group guided both her spiritual and social life, LaVerne later recalled. 
When she was 15 years old, she witnessed the US entry into World War II, an event that was to shape her life as she saw a close childhood friend die in the Battle of Okinawa. 
“I have a vivid recollection of Pearl Harbor Day,” she said. “My mother, grandmother and I had taken the streetcar to visit my aunt and uncle Jack, who lived in Shaker Heights. They had a TV, which we did not, and of course we heard first hand of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. What a shock that was.”
Shortly before her high school graduation, LaVerne went to a job interview at Burroughs Adding Machine Co. in downtown Cleveland and was hired on the spot. The job was to influence more than just her career path: through a friend at BAM she met her first husband, Ralph D. Kresge, Jr. The couple married in 1950. 
The newly minted Kresges spent a short but adventurous period living in Florida – including nearly getting caught in a hurricane during a visit to Key West with LaVerne’s mother – before returning to Ohio. There LaVerne had the first of five sons, Ralph D. Kresge III. 
The next two decades were a whirlwind, what her son Ralph sometimes called a “Leave it to Beaver” time of raising rambunctious boys, first in a Murray Hill apartment – where LaVerne learned to make spaghetti sauce from the Italian-American landlord’s wife – and then in a small house in Warrensville Heights and finally a large home on Wellfleet Drive in Bay Village. LaVerne’s boys had the run of the neighborhood, and when it was time for dinner she rang a big bell to call them to back home – where they were expected to sit up straight while their parents discussed the day. The family bought a small boat and sailed out of Edgewater Yacht Club, with LaVerne working on the committee boat. 
Each neighborhood brought another group of friends, she recalled, and she had regular lunches with some of them for the rest of her life. 
In 1982, LaVerne experienced what she with characteristic understatement called “not a very good year.” Her marriage ended, and both her parents died. She sold the large Bay Village house and moved to an apartment with a view of the Rocky River canyon – and “I went on to re-inventing my life,” she said. 
She had already gone back to work with a small manufacturer’s representative company, a job she kept for 19 years. As her free time expanded, she read, took classes, played bridge and met with her wide circle of female friends. 
In 1984, she thought she might like to get ready for retirement with some part-time work as a tax preparer and enrolled in a class with H&R Block. She didn’t much enjoy doing taxes, however, and dropped out of the class before the final exam. To her surprise, she got a call from the teacher, Mel Dieterich.
“I explained I did not want to work for Block, and he said, ‘Well, how would you like to go out for dinner?’” she wrote. “I mulled that over for a bit and said, ‘Well, why not.’”
“Why not” soon turned to “yes indeed,” and the couple was married four years later on Aug. 8, 1988 – 8-8-88 – a number chosen, they told their families, to ensure they wouldn’t forget their wedding anniversary. Mel and his son melded well with the Kresge clan, and LaVerne soon learned to leave the basement free for her husband’s tinkering and flea market acquisitions – his piles, as he called them, where he knew the location of everything. 
The pair retired on the same day in 1992 and were able to spend years traveling – staying in elder hostels and heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies – before Mel’s early death in 2001. 
The last two decades of LaVerne’s life were shaped as ever by friends and family. She took cruises, maintained a vigorous correspondence by email and Facebook, was a faithful member of Bay United Methodist Church and was a sounding board for grandchildren looking for advice on life. “These special people come and visit often,” she wrote. “Please keep coming!” 
LaVerne was preceded in death by her son Ralph. She is survived by her sons John (Leslie), Mark (Joyce), Doug and Kirk (Michelle), and by 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. A celebration of her life will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 6 at Bay United Methodist Church, 29931 Lake Road, Bay Village, Ohio. A private family burial will be held. In lieu of flowers, contributions to Bay United Methodist Church would be welcomed.

Guest Comments

Amanda Slitor
Hinckley Ohio

The moment I met LaVerne at One'll Healthcare we had an instant connection and a good laugh about “a table for two” We had many discussions about our love of reading books. She was a baseball fan, watching all the games and would fill me in on the latest.LaVerne was always smiling, kind and gentle. Spoke fondly of her family and was proud of you all.She is very much missed here and I will always remember her fondly. I am unable to attend her memorial as I will be at work but I wanted you to know she was special to me and I loved her.

Bradley Bay, Bay Village

I knew La Verne for a very short time but long enough to appreciate her and wish I'd been able to know her much longer than six months. She is sorely missed. My deepest condolences to her family and friends. May she rest in eternal peace and may everlasting light shine upon her.

Nan Darrough
Pataskala Ohio

We have grown to love her son Mark and daughter in law Joyce, and through him- can see what a devoted and special person LaVerne was. We are looking forward to celebrating and sharing with her family on Saturday.

Anne Long
Lakewood OH

I met LaVerne shortly after my arrival in the Cleveland area from Colorado in 2003. She quickly became a true and steady close friend. What a wonderful lady (and there may not be many 'ladies' left in our world). I miss her a great deal.