LaVerne Elizabeth Mikhail, 83, passed away January 11, 2024 at Hoosier Village Health Center in Indianapolis surrounded by her loving family. LaVerne was born on May 24,1940 in Evanston, IL to Robert and Shirley Lechner (both preceding her in death), graduated from New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL, and in 1962 received a BA in Modern Dance from Sarah Lawrence College, NY. LaVerne joined the Cornell University Dance Department in September 1962 as a dance instructor where she met her future husband, Edward M. Mikhail, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University. LaVerne and Edward were married on September 21, 1963.
LaVerne and Ed lived briefly in Philadelphia as well as Ottawa, Canada before settling in West Lafayette, Indiana in late 1965 and having five children together. Edward joined the engineering faculty at Purdue University while LaVerne established a thriving dance program for children and young adults ages 2-25, first at the YWCA and then moving it to the Morton Community Center. Over the next five decades, LaVerne had an enormous impact on her students, helping to shape their lives both inside and outside the studio. Her commitment and tireless effort to support her students’ growth and confidence earned her the first ever Community Treasure Award issued by the City of West Lafayette, which was presented to her by the mayor in 2005. Furthermore, the proceeds of some of the performances put on by her dance program were donated to Riley Children’s Health. In addition to her work with children, LaVerne taught classes to women of all ages, many of whom remained faithful to her guidance and mentorship for the entirety of her career.
In her personal life, LaVerne was an avid early morning runner averaging ten miles every day of the year -- rain or shine. She also had an incredibly green thumb and loved growing flowers and other ornamental plants in her garden. Her abundance of creativity regularly found other outlets, from refinishing furniture to decorating small Christmas trees, which she would give away as gifts. She was also accomplished in needlepoint and knitting. Later in life, she became quite savvy in creating collages on her iPhone and Mac, regularly taking lessons at the Apple Store. She loved classical music as well.
LaVerne is survived by her husband Edward, her children, their spouses and her grandchildren: Lyree Marcus (husband Peter and children Maggie, Nathan, Bridget, and Marci), Nicole Hahn (husband Dave and children Aidan, Keaton, and Becan), Gavin Mikhail (wife Barb and children Fiona, Renn, and Raife), Monique Mikhail (husband and daughter), Yvette Mikhail (husband Andrew)
And, her siblings and their spouses: Brother Lawrence’s second wife Patti, Leslie (husband Ford), Laurel (husband Jeff), Lisa (husband Steve)
LaVerne had one brother, Lawrence Lechner, who, along with his first wife (and LaVerne’s best friend) Francoise, preceded her in death.
LaVerne’s final resting place will be at Carmel Cemetery in Carmel, Indiana.
As LaVerne always said, “Keep moving!”