LaVaughn Bozak Snel, of Port Townsend, Washington, died Sept. 5, 2019, four days after her 80th birthday, following a five-year battle with kidney cancer.
LaVaughn (middle name: Anita) was born to Joseph Bozak and Mildred Arndt Bozak in Aberdeen, Washington, on Sept. 1, 1939, the day World War II began. Until LaVaughn was three and a half, her family lived in a two-bedroom house her parents built themselves on 40 acres of land about 11 miles north of Hoquiam, Washington. Her earliest memories included watching her father milk the family cow and standing on the banks of the Wishkah River as returning salmon swarmed upstream.
In July 1942, LaVaughn became an older sister when brother Stephen Bozak was born; the siblings enjoyed a close and caring relationship until her death.
The family moved to Portland, Oregon, in early 1943, and then to Vancouver, Washington, three years later, where her father would build another house.
Early on, LaVaughn developed a passion for reading she would pass on to her brother and children. Late in life, she recalled how her second-grade teacher at Hazel Dell Elementary in Vancouver would pick out books for her to read by herself because she was ahead of the class’ reading level. (She was a frequent customer – and seller – at Port Townsend’s William James Bookseller.)
In the summer of 1952, armed with a Conoco Oil road atlas, the Bozaks set off on a cross-country car trip that took them to Washington, D.C. and New York. That journey may have sparked LaVaughn’s lifelong wanderlust, which later took her and her mother to Cairo, Egypt to visit close friend George Little and see the Great Pyramids of Giza. She also traveled with her daughter, Elena Cara Snel, to the Philippines in 1982 to attend George’s wedding to Lourdes Leuterio. Around the turn of the 21st century, LaVaughn completed the Coast to Coast Walk of England, and in 2003, following the marriage in Italy of her son, Ross Andrew Snel, she toured that country with her then-87-year-old father, her daughter, her brother and her sister-in-law, Melanie Quillin Bozak.
LaVaughn attended Shumway Junior High School and then Fort Vancouver High School, from which she graduated in 1957. She then enrolled at the Good Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing in Portland, graduating in 1960 to become a registered nurse.
Working the graveyard shift in the “Good Sam” emergency room, LaVaughn “had the very deserved reputation of being an outstanding nurse and being able to handle any crisis that presented itself,” recalls friend George Little, who was a lab technician at the hospital at the time.
In Portland, LaVaughn met Dirk Drukker Snel, an attorney who grew up in New Jersey, and the two married on April 4, 1964.
They soon moved East for Dirk’s work, first to Philadelphia, where son Ross was born in 1966, and then to the “New Town” of Reston, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., where daughter Elena Cara was born in 1969.
During the 1970s and 1980s LaVaughn worked in the emergency room at Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia – the largest hospital in Northern Virginia -- and at the hospital’s satellite ER in Reston. Later she worked at Cardiac Care Associates in Reston.
After her husband Dirk passed away in 1993 (also from kidney cancer), she began mulling a move back to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to her family. In 1996, the year her mother died, LaVaughn moved to Port Townsend, where her brother lived and her father would soon move.
In 2000, she supervised construction of her dream home on Castle Hill. Multiple large windows afford sweeping views of Port Townsend Bay, Whidbey Island and North Cascades peaks. LaVaughn delighted in seeing evergreens, sea, mountains and sky from her kitchen.
In retirement, she devoted herself to her grandchildren, Vita Maria Snel and Luca Jan Snel, visiting them frequently even though they lived thousands of miles away, and always making herself available for long-distance phone chats.
She also devoted herself to her community, joining the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in the late 1990s when it still met in the Tri-Area Community Center in Chimacum. Over the years, she served on the fellowship’s board, as a greeter and on its Pastoral Care Team, offering support to members and friends of the fellowship in times of need. Fellow members recall her tirelessly offering rides, a sympathetic ear and other assistance.
LaVaughn owned five spirited Jack Russell terriers (first Jake and Coco, then Minnie, Ossie and Sam) that she loved to walk – and throw balls for -- at Kah-Tai Lagoon, North Beach and Irondale Beach.
In her final years, she often said how lucky she felt to live in Port Townsend, surrounded by family, kind neighbors, a compassionate fellowship and the awe-inspiring natural beauty of her native Northwest.
LaVaughn is survived by her son Ross; grandchildren Vita and Luca; her brother Stephen and his wife Melanie; nephew Jeffrey Bozak and his wife Beth; nephew Dean Bozak; niece Christy Spencer and her husband Steve; nephew Jonathan Gusey and his wife Kim; and the children and grandchildren of her nieces and nephews.
LaVaughn was preceded in death by her parents, husband, and daughter Elena Cara, who died on March 23, 2019.
A memorial service celebrating LaVaughn’s life will take place at 1 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2020 at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Ave, Port Townsend, WA 98368.