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In memoriam: Peggy Johnson Lavery, former first lady of Virginia Tech

January 25, 2016

Peggy Lavery

BLACKSBURG — Peggy Johnson Lavery, Virginia Tech’s first lady from 1975-1987 and a longtime resident of Blacksburg, died on Jan. 20. She was 80.

As first lady, Lavery entertained thousands of visitors at the university president’s home, the Grove, often selecting menus and preparing part of the food served. She helped oversee renovations to the Grove, and as first lady participated in a university fundraising campaign that ultimately raised more than $118 million. Along with her husband, William Lavery, who died in 2009, she was a member of the Ut Prosim Society of donors to Virginia Tech.

According to her obituary, Peggy Johnson Lavery was born on a Nebraska farm to the late Virgil L. and Irine Mullins Johnson. Having scored well on the civil service exam, she moved to Washington D.C. in the mid-1950s to work as a secretary at the Pentagon, during which time she met her future husband, then a soldier.

The Laverys married in 1956. They moved to Blacksburg in 1966 after William Lavery joined the Virginia Tech faculty as director of administration for the Extension division.

As an active, involved member of the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg communities, Peggy Johnson Lavery served as a 4-H Leader for her children’s 4-H Clubs, a den mother, a parent teacher association volunteer, a Sunday school teacher and coordinator, and an officer in the Virginia Tech Faculty Wives Club.

In the early 1990s, she returned to work full-time, serving in administrative and marketing roles in senior care. She gained a reputation for her experience and advocacy for improving the lives of senior citizens, and was appointed by Governor L. Douglas Wilder to the Governor’s Advisory Board for the Aging. 

Peggy Johnson Lavery is survived by her daughters and sons-in-law, Debra L. and David Sensibaugh of Kingsport, Tennessee; Lori L. and Carl Mitchell of Radford; and Mary L. and Scott Fisher of Culpeper; as well as by her son and daughter-in-law K. Michael and Lisa C. Lavery. Also surviving are her three brothers, Kenneth Johnson, Virgil Johnson, and Garry Johnson, and a host of nephews, nieces, cousins, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

The family will receive friends from 5-7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29, at McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive, Blacksburg. A 7:30 p.m. Rosary service will follow the visitation. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1205 Old Mill Road, Blacksburg.

Interment will follow at Westview Cemetery, 723 E. Roanoke Street, Blacksburg. Flowers will be appreciated, or memorial contributions may be made to the Peggy Lavery Gerontology Research and Professional Development Awards (Virginia Tech University Gift Accounting, Mail Code 0336, 902 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24061), or to St. Mary’s Catholic Church (1205 Old Mill Road, Blacksburg, VA 24060).

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