Ralph E. “Yo” LaVelle, 77, of 415 North St. Marys St., died Sunday evening, Nov. 4, 2012, at the Elk Regional Health Center following a brief illness. A dedicated family man, proud veteran and member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, Yo passed peacefully surrounded by his loving family.
Yo was born Feb. 24, 1935, in Platte, South Dakota, son of the late Harry and Annetta Ferris LaVelle. Orphaned as a toddler, Ralph was a resident of and attended the Marty Indian School on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. As a member of that extended family, Yo developed a lifetime love of sports, starring on the school’s six-man football team and making lifetime friends such as Vernon Clark. He also had a lifetime appreciation for the clergy who helped to point him in the right direction in life. He was a member of the Sacred Heart Church in St. Marys.
After graduating from high school, Yo joined another tight-knit clan, the United States Marines, serving honorably for eight years as a Lance Corporal. Always Faithful (Semper Fi!), Ralph later served for years as a leading member of the St. Marys Servicemen’s Burial Detail.
Shortly after his arrival in St. Marys in 1959, Yo began his own family, meeting, courting and marrying the beautiful Joyce Mahovlich on Oct. 1, 1960 in the Sacred Heart Church. They raised four daughters together in a tight and loving home in “Lynchville.” To support his growing family, Yo worked for 17 years at Keystone Carbon Company before moving on to Windfall Products until his retirement in 1997 after over 20 years of service. He was an indispensable tool and die specialist, even traveling to Germany for the company. Again, members of this work family, such as “camp” buddy Tom Arnold, stayed close for life.
Yo endured heartbreak as well, first with the tragic death of his third-born daughter, Annette, then with the passing of beloved Joyce on May 15, 1989 after years of battling cancer. Once again the faithful one, Yo never remarried or even dated anyone else.
In retirement, he lived a very full life. He especially enjoyed watching Gerry’s boys, Bobby, Randy and Ricky, star in countless games and making him a very proud grandfather. During the 1970s, he taught himself to play tennis and joined another close-knit group of enthusiasts, such as Gordon Daghir and John Brock, to play on a regular basis. He was “tickled pink” when granddaughter Hannah caught the tennis bug and starred in high school. He and his tennis buddies later devoted countless hours to helping coach the Elk County Catholic girls' tennis team.
Yo loved traveling to Key West to stay with daughter Lisa and her husband Russ during the winter months, basking in the sun, playing tennis and socializing with anyone and everyone. He loved meeting and making new friends and, of course, visiting his family. He looked forward to stops to see family in Bumpass, Va. and Frank Straub in the Keys.
He loved taking excursions to western New York to visit his oldest daughter Chris and family. There he got to play “farmer” and wrestle with his tractor. At Tom Arnold’s camp he kept the fire going, fed the deer apples and pears and enjoyed yet another welcoming family. Ralph lived a long and fruitful life, to say the least. All of his families will miss him.
With his “Hanta Yo” (clear the way!) motor home, Yo and his friends would travel to Penn State University football games as far away as Nebraska; country music festivals in Ohio; and NASCAR in Watkins Glen. Perhaps it was his “Indian” DNA that made Yo embrace the open road and its adventures, but never venturing far from his roots that he put down in St. Marys.
He is survived by three daughters, Christine Leach (Gary) of Hornell, N.Y.; Geraldine Pearsall of St. Marys, and Lisa Meyer (Russell) of St. Marys; former son-in-law, Robert Pearsall; and four grandchildren, Bobby Pearsall, Randy Pearsall and his wife Ryan, Ricky Pearsall and Hannah Leach.
In addition to his parents, wife and daughter, he was preceded in death by his sisters, Pearl Klopfer and Chris LaVelle; and by his brothers, Eugene (Harry) and William LaVelle.
A Mass of Christian Burial for Ralph E. “Yo” LaVelle will be held at the Sacred Heart Church on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at 10 a.m., with the Rev. Eric Vogt, OSB, friend, officiating. Full military rights will be accorded by the St. Marys Servicemen’s Burial Detail. Burial will follow in the St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Visitation is at the Lynch-Radkowski Funeral Home on Thursday evening from 6 to 8 p.m.
Memorials, if desired, may be made to the Sacred Heart Church, 325 Center St., St. Marys, PA 15857; ECCSS Athletic Association (Tennis Program), 114 Queens Rd., St. Marys, PA 15857; or St. Marys Servicemen’s Burial Detail, c/o The American Legion, 168 Center St., St. Marys, PA 15857.
Online condolences may be offered at www.lynch-radkowski.com .