Ernie LeVon fell asleep in Jesus on Jan. 13, 2021, at the age of 89.
He was born and grew up in Chicago, attending public schools, Steinmetz High School, and Wright Junior College. With younger brother Dick (Rollin), he joined Boy Scouts and built and flew model airplanes. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout. They also spent some happy summers at their family’s farm in Marengo, Illinois, with Uncle Jamie, Aunt Elizabeth, and their cousin Edwin.
Ernie completed his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Illinois. There he met his future wife, Georgine Stough. They moved to Ann Arbor when he entered graduate school at the University of Michigan. In Ann Arbor their son Steven was born, and Ernie completed his Ph.D. He was hired by G.D. Searle, a pharmaceutical company in Skokie, Illinois. They rented an apartment in Skokie, during which time Peter was born. They soon bought a house in Morton Grove, Illinois, and while there, Paul was born. From there they moved to Evanston, Illinois, where all three sons graduated from high school, having participated in scouting, music, sports and various part-time jobs. During these years they took many family road trips to visit grandparents, other relatives, and several national parks in the U.S. and Canada, many times camping along the way in a tent.
After a divorce, Ernie married Verena Asher and moved into a home on Greeley Avenue in Evanston, which also became the last home of his dad, Walter LeVon. The three sons as well as stepson Bernhard would visit during vacations from college. When Ernie was awarded a management position in the Nutrasweet division of Searle, he and Verena moved to Frankfort, Illinois, south of Chicago, near the factory. He traveled to Japan several times to learn how to produce the sweetener in market quantities. After his retirement, he and Verena made a nationwide search for their dream retirement location. They eventually bought a log house in the Cascade Range of Washington state. In that lovely setting they learned storytelling and took guitar lessons, as well as entertaining relatives, sometimes for a week at a time. When Verena’s health made it too difficult to continue the country life, they moved back to Evanston. Ernie cared for her at home until her death.
But that was not the end of the story, because he began dating Elizabeth Stegner. After they married, he moved into her condo, joined her art classes, did some traveling with her, and enjoyed getting to know her daughters, Martha and Sarah, and their families. When he and Elizabeth thought it would be best to move into a retirement community, they chose Westminster Presbyterian Home in Evanston. There they made new friends and got involved in various activities, including bus trips to the Art Institute and the Chicago Symphony. During 2020, Ernie received care in the assisted living unit and finally the memory care unit. Elizabeth was as involved as she could be, given the COVID restrictions, even sometimes testing the limits. He passed away peacefully, with Elizabeth at his bedside. Ernie was an outdoorsman. He fished, hiked, camped and canoed throughout his life, enjoying the wildlife and flowers along the way.
He was a patron and practitioner of the arts. He attended operas and symphony concerts with his wife and appreciated any public concert or private recital where his children or grandchildren performed. In retirement he picked up guitar, made a study of storytelling, and took lessons to develop his gift of drawing.
His profession was science. As a chemist he received 64 patents in 19 countries, including eight U.S. patents, during his career (news to his relatives today, because he never talked about them). He kept so quiet about his achievements that, in high school chemistry one day, my teacher announced to the class that he had just heard my dad give a presentation at Northwestern University — Dad had never said a word about it to me. But science was also a hobby to him. Not only did he do science demos for his sons’ Cub Scout dens, but he also carefully considered any phenomenon that arose in his everyday life, trying to figure out what caused it. His enthusiastic use of Equal from the time it hit the market may have been a personal experiment to test the long-term safety of NutraSweet.
He was also astute in business, patriotic, and he kept himself informed on current events. But perhaps first of all, he was a family man. He regularly visited his parents and never missed the family parties for birthdays and holidays. He took us to Indiana for his mother’s family reunions as long as they continued. He looked up relatives when traveling through states as far-flung as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Washington, and New Jersey, as well as Switzerland. Many of our family vacations were spent exploring Florida and New Mexico while visiting our grandparents in those states. And 18 days before he left us, he summoned his failing faculties to recognize, greet and encourage his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in an online meeting, since no one was allowed to visit him due to the pandemic precautions. Please visit https://everloved.com/life-of/ernest-levon.