Ruth Lavonne Rucker was born an only child to Ruth and Otto Rucker in Centralia, Washington on Jan. 14, 1928. She passed away in Vancouver, Washington, on Feb. 12, 2023.
When Lavonne started school, no one could’ve known she was just classrooms away from her future husband of almost 50 years, Frank Sturgill.
In high school (class of 1945), Lavonne was extremely proud of her large group of lifetime friends. She was always singing and performing. For several years, she was the Centralia Tigers’ majorette. Leading the local parades was an appropriate activity for the daughter of the town’s chief of police and first lady, Otto and Ruth.
After high school graduation, Lavonne married Harry S. Hill Jr. in 1947 and divorced in 1961. Throughout those years and beyond, she kept performing, doing elaborate pantomime routines with Frankie Elsie such as Annie Get Your Gun and other showtunes of the day. Oftentimes, her sons, Danny and Marty, were impatiently sitting stage left. She sang in local bands, large and small, performing the big band sounds of the day.
Years after they met, Lavonne married Frank Sturgill in 1963 and in 1967 they pulled up stakes and moved to Vancouver, Washington, where they made Christian faith and their mutual passion for a healthy lifestyle the bedrock of their lives.
Lavonne and Frank owned a dance studio above Reda Hardware during the Centralia years and later on they taught ballroom and swing on oceanic cruises. No matter the dance floor or local, the Sturgills were always showstoppers.
The birth of their grandchildren Joe, Paula and David, reinvigorated their already active lives with trips to Disneyland, attending local theater productions such as Robin Hood and Frankenstein, and annual holiday snowball fights. They discussed the works of Alfred Hitchcock when the grandkids were still single digits, even crashing Halloween parties and staying in character all night.
Grandma Lavonne taught the kids how to ballroom dance and the nuances of the entertainment world. She was the sophisticated elder woman to whom the young gravitated. Her sons’ friends would confide in her and that carried over with her grandchildren’s peers. This would culminate in 2003 with Lavonne being cast as Mrs. Taffy in a high school movie production that premiered to a full house at Kiggins Theater in downtown Vancouver. Years afterward she was often recognized throughout Clark County as Mrs. Taffy.
After Frank passed in 2009, Lavonne became closer with Marty and Joe, speaking with them on most days. Lavonne was still Lavonne, making close confidants with Olivia and Constantine Pukay and their extended family who own and operate the wonderful group home where she spent her final years, still dancing and entertaining fellow residents.
Marty and Joe were with Lavonne in the end, spending the last few hours listening to her favorite music and reminiscing about the extraordinary love she experienced in her long life.
Lavonne was preceded in death by her oldest son, Daniel Hill, in 2020. She is survived by her son, Marty Hill, and grandchildren, Joe Hill, Dr. Paula Burleigh and David Hill.
A private interment will be held.