Mark LaVanture, right, with his wife, Patty, at their son John's graduation from Andrews University in 2015.

Mark LaVanture, former Country Life Foods president, dies at 68

Mark LaVanture, who managed Country Life Natural Foods for 18 years and was active in Adventist-Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI), died on Oct. 8, 2021. He was 68.

LaVanture battled with Covid-19 for just over eight weeks, spending the last seven weeks of his life at Spectrum Health Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph, Michigan. Other than lung damage from the disease, his organs remained healthy until four days prior to his death when his kidneys began to fail. 

Lake Union Conference Vice President Carmelo Mercado remembers LaVanture as a “very committed servant of God who wanted nothing more than to do the will of our Heavenly Father.” Mercado says that he always appreciated Mark’s calm quiet nature and when he spoke in the Lake Union ASI board meetings Mercado always knew he had something significant to say. “He was always so willing to help plan our various chapter activities and was always present in our yearly chapter retreats. I will definitely miss his warm smile and gentle spirit but I have no doubt that I will see him again when our Lord comes again.” 

His death was announced by his wife of 37 years, Patricia, who describes him as the epitome of her dreams. He was a family man--faithful, hard-working, committed, steady, and strong, with a heart of true blue. He was analytical, spiritual, affirming, romantic, and helpful, with a charming sense of mischievous intrigue. Every day was an adventure because of his fun-loving nature and easy-going style which she attributes to his Italian, French and Swiss descent and his relationship with God.  

Biographical sketch

After earning a degree in Chemistry from Mansfield University in upstate Pennsylvania, LaVanture was employed at Mobil Oil based in Virginia and later transferred to Chicago. 

During this time, he was awarded three United States patents, in addition to letters of commendation for excellence. During his last year at Mobil, he felt a growing burden to get involved with something that could be more helpful to people in a practical way that aligned with his interest in health and nutrition.  

Stepping out in faith and venturing into the world of non-profits, he moved to Loveland, Colorado in the foothills of the Rockies to work at Eden Valley Institute of Wellness where he served from 1984-1992 as the Health Food Store Manager, Education Director, and then as the first Director of their new Lifestyle Center where he was privileged to bring his mother for one of their first programs.  

He spent the last 29 years of his life from 1992-2021 pouring his heart and soul into a ministry he truly believed in – Oak Haven/Country Life Natural Foods in Michigan, serving 18 of those years as president.  

It was here, as well as at Eden Valley and across the country, that he and his wife spent countless hours, often with their children, being of service to communities through extensive health education and cooking schools. In his “spare” time he served on numerous other boards of directors as well as his local church. Before his untimely death, LaVanture was working to lighten his load from so many responsibilities to spend more time with family, friends, and neighbors.  

In addition to his wife Patty, LaVanture is survived by his parents Dean and Mary LaVanture (both in their 90’s); children Dana LaVanture, Sarah Hug, Rebecca Hernandez, and John LaVanture; sons-in-law Brody Hug and Henry Hernandez; daughter-in-law Donna LaVanture; five grandchildren Jared, Lexie and Axel Hug and Judah and Risi Hernandez; sister Karyn LaVanture; brother Brad LaVanture; sisters-in-law Sandy LaVanture and Linda Ronjak; brothers-in-law Michael Junge, Mark Junge, and Gary Ronjak; as well as aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, their spouses, and children.  

A memorial service will be held Saturday, October 30, 4:00 p.m. EST, at the Berrien Springs Village Seventh-day Adventist Church. The service will be live-streamed and recorded for later viewing at: www.villagesda.org. The burial will be private.