LaVerne was born Jan. 8, 1922 in Ellsworth, Wis. to Frank and Alice (Bolin) Knappe. He moved with his family to Red Wing, Minn. as a young child and spent most of his childhood and teen years there, playing baseball, football and ski jumping. In 1938, LaVerne moved to Caledonia, Minn. with his family. During this year, LaVerne played on Caledonia High School’s undefeated football team, met his wife Ruth (Pieper) and graduated from Caledonia High School.
LaVerne received a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota, where he studied mechanical engineering. He played center for the Gopher football team from 1940 to 1943 as well as played baseball, ski jumped and wrestled. He enlisted in the United States Navy where he served in the South Pacific during World War II.
Upon return, LaVerne began graduate studies in engineering at Cornell University in Ithica, N.Y., earning a master’s degree. He taught at a college in Illinois before he and Ruth returned to the U of M, where he resumed graduate studies, earning a masters and then a PhD in applied mechanics in 1953. LaVerne returned to Illinois where his work contributed to the development of mechanics used in the U.S. space program.
In 1956, LaVerne accepted a position at IBM, becoming one of the original employees of the Rochester, Minn. location. He remained with the company for more than 30 years, retiring in 1987 having developed several patents. He also earned several outstanding contribution awards from IBM and presented one of these projects at a professional conference in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England in 1975.
In retirement, LaVerne and Ruth traveled, golfed, continued to be active in church activities and enjoyed spending time with family and friends.
LaVerne and Ruth raised three children, Dudley, Pat and Dan, in Rochester. Verne was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church for more than 50 years, serving in several leadership capacities. After Ruth’s passing in 1999, LaVerne volunteered for more than a decade with the American Cancer Society in her honor. He was a founder of Rochester Lutheran School, was an active member of the Gamehaven Boy Scouts Council, Meals on Wheels and remained active in Kiwanis until his death.
LaVerne is survived by two children, Patria Langworthy, Rochester and Daniel (Fairy) Knappe, Dana Point, Calif.; 10 grandchildren, Christian (Elisabeth) Knappe, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Ehren Knappe, Winona, Minn.; Michelle (Jeremy) Sprick, Lake City; Noel Knappe, Crookston, Minn.; Nate Langworthy (Priv Shenoy), Rochester; Megan Langworthy, Rochester; Caleb (Lauren) Langworthy, Wheeler, Wis.; Kirsten Knappe-Langworthy (Luke Grohosky), Minneapolis, Minn.; Jeremy Knappe, Glendale, Ariz.; and Jessica Knappe, Dana Point; and six great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth; son, Dudley; and two sisters, Delores Bissen and Marlys Spurlock.
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 28, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Rochester. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 27, at Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Home and one hour before the service at the church. Burial will be in Oakwood Cemetery with military honors. Memorials are suggested to the American Cancer Society and Rochester Central Lutheran School. Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Homes, 5421 Royal Place N.W., Rochester, MN 55901, 507-289-3600, www.ranfranzandvinefh.com.