Vonnie Farra passed peacefully into the arms of God. She graced this earth for nearly 88 1/2 years. She was born in Gibson County, Tennessee to John Berlin Whitten and Tennessee Porter (McGee) Whitten as the youngest of four children who all helped their parents pick cotton and share-crop the farm. She moved with her family to Michigan in 1946 when she was 13. The auto industry offered a better way of life. At 14, she fell in love with coffee; a treat that was only surpassed by fresh ripe strawberries.
She graduated from high school in Pontiac, Michigan in 1951 with a high aptitude for enterprise. In today’s world, she would have been a businesswoman. During the time when many women did not even attend college, she was the first and only member in her family to graduate from college. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree from what is now the University of Northwestern in Minneapolis where she met in a psychology class, the love of her life, Harry Farra. They married in 1957.
She taught elementary school in Anoka, Minnesota and gave birth to their daughter, Heidi, in 1960. Vonnie earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from what is now St. Cloud State University in Minnesota in 1962 as Harry completed his divinity degree and a Master’s in Speech. In 1962, she and Harry moved to Beaver Falls, PA where he began a long career at Geneva College as a professor and ordained minister.
Vonnie gave birth to their son, Kirk in 1963. She continued her teaching career including Kindergarten at South Beaver Elementary School; nursery school at the United Jewish Community Center in Chippewa; substitute teaching for numerous school districts; and on occasion taught a reading course for Geneva College. She was known as an effective, naturally talented teacher who was admired by her students and their parents.
Throughout her lifetime, Vonnie was always eager to learn new skills and serve her community. She was deeply committed to women’s issues, the women’s rights movement and equality. For some time, she served on the Board of the Women’s Center.
She earned credentials as a real estate agent, as a radio broadcaster, and developed skills in wood-working and furniture refinishing. Towards the end of her career, she became active in volunteering and working with non-profit organizations including the Muscular Dystrophy Organization. She also served on the Board of Directors for the Beaver County Cancer and Heart Association.
Vonnie also worked at the Beaver County Courthouse in the Domestic Relations section and worked for a time with the Job Training program. She served on the Advisory Council for what is now the Heritage Valley Hospital in Beaver where she received excellent care during her final days.
The center of Vonnie’s life was her marriage to her life partner and husband, Harry, whom she loved passionately and fully. Martin Luther stated, “There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.” Similarly, if you were a friend of Vonnie, you knew it, and were cherished, celebrated, and supported.
After becoming a believer, under the preaching of a Jewish Christian Evangelist, Vonnie was baptized in Pontiac at the age of 16. Over the years, she was a member of several churches, for the past 17 years, a member of the Chippewa United Methodist Church.
The family is grateful for the wonderful care provided by her physicians, nurses, and the entire staff of Heritage Valley Hospital in Beaver, and the caregiving staff, nurses, and administrators at Concordia Villa St. Joseph’s in Baden.
Vonnie is predeceased by her parents, by her three siblings: Lawrence Whitten, Myrtle London, Kathleen O’Guin, and numerous nieces and nephews.
She is survived by her devoted husband of 64 years, Dr. Harry E. Farra, her children and their spouses, Dr. Heidi E. San Nicolas (Dr. Gregorio C. San Nicolas), Kirk A. Farra (Kathleen Day Farra), and grandchildren, Alexander San Nicolas, Aaron San Nicolas, Austen San Nicolas, Matthew Farra, and Jessica Farra. She is also survived by five nieces and two nephews.
A memorial service to celebrate the life of Vonnie will be held at 11:00AM on Saturday, January 8th,2022 at the Hill and Kunselman Funeral Home, www.hillandkunselman.com , 3801 Fourth Avenue, Beaver Falls.
To honor Vonnie’s memory with a charitable donation, please consider donating to the Women’s Center of Beaver County, 190 Third Street, Beaver, PA 15009.
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