Dr. Gunn-Ford was the driving force behind the election of two mayors, and the expansion of educational, and cultural programs in the community for decades.
The community mourns the passing of pioneer educator, churchwoman, and civic activist, Dr. Lavargne Gunn-Ford.
Dr. Ford, 73, died early Saturday morning after becoming ill during the night.
A graveside service will be held for her on Friday, March 27th at Richwood Memorial Cemetary in lieu of a formal funeral service in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. A memorial service celebrating her life and legacy will be held after virus limitations have been lifted.
Visitations will be held Friday at the New Tabernacle Baptist Church from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., one person at a time. The graveside service will follow. Those persons who attend the graveside committal are asked to stand six feet apart with no hugging, handshakes or physical contacts.
Dr. Gunn-Ford’s official obituary reads as follows:
“Dr. LaVargne Nadine Gunn-Ford, 73, of Monroe, Louisiana, passed away at 5:00 AM, Saturday, March 21, 2020, at St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, LA. She was the daughter of the late Charley Gunn Sr. and Patsy Gunn.
Born LaVargne Nadine Gunn on January 13, 1947, to Charley and Patsy Gunn, in Monroe, LA. The youngest of six siblings: Charlie Jr., Elizabeth, Evelyn, Patsy, and Jocelyn. She was jokingly known to her siblings as “The Spoiled One,” because of her parents’ propensity to let her get her way and baby her. She was raised on North 25th St. in Monroe, LA where she immersed herself in books and the lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Her family not only stressed education but also Christianity.
LaVargne and her family were devout members of New Tabernacle Baptist Church in Monroe, LA. She was an outstanding student at Little Flower Learning Academy where she excelled in her studies and also served as a teacher assistant/peer tutor during her high school years. She graduated at the top of her class and continued her matriculation at Southern University A & M College in Baton Rouge, LA.
LaVargne followed in her eldest sister Elizabeth’s footsteps by going to Southern, becoming an educator, and also being initiated into the Alpha Tau Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Her matriculation at Southern turned the shy kid from Monroe, into a charismatic educator ready to mold the minds of her awaiting students. She graduated with a Bachelors from Southern with honors in August of 1968.
After graduation, she returned to Monroe to start her illustrious career as an educator at Crosley Elementary School. LaVargne quickly found her niche as a brand new educator, she was a natural. She eventually became Teacher of the Year at Crosley and still is beloved by her former students to this very day. While working as a young teacher, she began furthering her education at Grambling State University, where she received her Masters + 30. At this period in time, LaVargne’s educational career was not the only aspect of her life that was taking off. LaVargne soon thereafter met the love of her life, Jerry Woodrow Ford. They dated for years and eventually became husband and wife on June 22, 1975. He was a dashing young man from Bosco, LA that swept her off her feet. He was also an educator for a number of years just like his beautiful bride. To this union two children were born, Jerry Patrick Ford and Elizabeth Rose Ford.
Her family life did not curtail her quest for knowledge or furthering her search for new techniques and tools to aid her in her educational career. She received her doctorate of philosophy from Kansas State University in 1980.
Her new title of Dr. LaVargne Gunn-Ford allowed her to further her career in education. She worked as a professor at Kansas State University and Grambling State University. She also started moving into an administrative role as an educator at Berg Jones Elementary in a curriculum coordinator position. She quickly found herself as a principal at Opportunity Learning Academy and then Carver Elementary. Her success at these schools promoted her to a key supervisor’s role at the Monroe City School Board, where she headed up all of the elementary schools in the district. After thirty-seven years of dedicated service to the educational realm, Dr.
Gunn-Ford retired to enjoy her golden years with her husband to travel and attend to other concerns in her community.
Throughout her life, Dr. Gunn-Ford devoted much of her time to community service through such organizations as Top Ladies of Distinction, Tab-N-Action Board of Directors, Monroe Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorotiy, Inc., Les Martiniques Club, OIC Board of Directors, P.E.E.P., Excellence Academy Charter School, Grandma and Me, and numerous other civic minded organizations that helped not only the youth but all members of the community in Monroe.
She was a natural-born leader and demonstrated this through her principalships and also in these civic organizations where she held various positions of leadership. She wrote over thirty proposals that received funding as grants on the local, state, and national level. These grants helped countless numbers of citizens throughout not only this community but plenty of others.
After thirty-eight years of marriage, LaVargne was dealt a devastating blow. The love of her life passed away after a long hard-fought battle with cancer in 2013. Jerry never left her heart but she never truly got over the physical and emotional loss of her soulmate. Her failing health and grieving still did not stop her volunteering spirit.
Dr. Gunn-Ford enjoyed nothing more than spending time with her grandchildren and teaching them social etiquette, manners, and how to give back to their community. She came up with the idea to help other grandmothers convey this same message to their grandchildren, by forming the Grandmother and Me Organization in 2016. This was the last of her many endeavors that touched and uplifted so many lives.
She is survived by her son Jerry Patrick Ford and daughter Elizabeth Rose Ford, her lone surviving sister Jocelyn Gunn Stephens, five grandchildren, numerous cousins, countless friends, sorors, colleagues and former students and all whose lives she has deeply touched. Dr. LaVargne Gunn-Ford will be remembered for all that she has done for her community and family. She was a leader who touched so many lives in a positive way. Her community, church, colleagues, and family will miss her presence but will always have a special place for her in their hearts.