Skip to content


Florence Olive Abarr, the only child of Carl and Julia Dyer Abarr, was born at home on the farm west of Mount Ayr August 20, 1921. She began her education at Silver Point country school and graduated with the Mount Ayr High School Class of 1938 where she was involved in a variety of activities and music groups. A classmate Charles Lawhead and she began dating during high school and continued their friendship when he went away to Iowa City and her to Maryville for college.
With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, World War II at hand, and many men leaving for service, plans were changed. Florence and Charles eloped over Christmas vacation 1941 returning to their respective colleges to finish the year. Florence graduated in May 1942 with a major in English and minors in math and music. Following her graduation, she moved to Iowa City where the couple found a small apartment and she began working in the university business office. Charles had made plans to attend dental school and with the war effort, classes were accelerated to facilitate dentists helping with soldiers. Another dental student John Travarthen from Muscatine lived across the street and they began a lifelong friendship.
Florence and Charles enjoyed time with other dental school friends and sang in the church choir. Upon Charles’ graduation from dental school, he began basic training in Rockford, IL and Florence returned home to her parents’ farm in rural Diagonal rather than stay on with her job at the university. That fall, the night before school was to begin, Pop Varner superintendent of the Diagonal School, came to offer her a job teaching high school science and math subjects since all the men teachers had been called to active duty. She agreed on a temporary basis and the next morning began with classes in algebra, geometry, biology and physics. Because she had no car and fuel was scarce, she found a family to board within Diagonal. During that winter she rode the train from Diagonal to Rock Island three times to visit Charles and in April when a man teacher was available, Mr. Varner released her from her contract to join Charles who was then stationed in Texas. It was there she learned to play bridge, one of the games she most loved.
In November of 1945 Camille was born and the next April the couple moved from Texas to Mount Ayr where Charles began his dental practice with his father and Florence began her life as a busy mother. Three other couples returning to Mount Ayr from the service who joined her and Charles for a bridge club were the Hendersons, Varners and Davis’. Florence and Charles were approached by the school superintendent, Hugh Steele, and asked to house the new home economics teacher. Thus began Florence’s wonderful friendship with Grace Moser who lived with them until she and Henry were married five years later. During that time son, Collus, joined the family.
Having joined the Methodist Church when she was 15, Florence accompanied Charles as a member of the First Christian Church and became active playing the organ, directing the choir, teaching Sunday school and helping with youth activities. In 1952 the couple purchased the large old home at 600 West Madison and began plans to move it to a new location in order to build a home there. Son, Carlin, was born in April of 1956 and the next year the family moved into their new home. Her family’s activities kept Florence busy with teacher subbing, being a 4-H leader, band mother and ball team transporter to mention a few.
After a visit in the 1970’s to the farm of Quentin Anderson to see his vision for a lake near Ellston, she and Charles purchased a property on the soon to be Sun Valley Lake and became some of the first residents dividing their time between their home in Mount Ayr and at the lake. Florence learned to play golf and enjoyed boating and many of the other activities. They attended the Ellston United Methodist Church.
Following Charles’ heart attack, they began spending winters in Mesa, AZ selling their Sun Valley home in 1993 and becoming residents of Fountain of the Sun. Florence and Charles resumed many of the same activities they had enjoyed over the years and were active in the choir at the Velda Rose United Methodist Church. They did more travel both in the United States and abroad. They reconnected with WWII Texas army friends, Dr. Pete and Mary Linderman and with Atlantic friends Art and Beth Friday who first invited them to visit their home in Arizona.
Florence made many new friends over the years in the places she lived with neighbors, various church and community groups and leadership positions. She traveled to Maryville and took classes for a master’s degree in English literature and was active in the Northwest Missouri State University Alumni group. In 1961 as National President of the Northwest Missouri University Alumni Association, she helped further the Foundation Board and was president for several years. She started the Arizona alumni chapter. Florence was a member of the Order of Eastern Star where she served as a state officer in 1967, DAR, P.E.O. and Legion Auxiliary. She was a care review committee member for Mount Ayr Health Care for many years and worked on committees for the 1955 county centennial and community zoning.
Charles passed away in 2008. In 2014 after recovering from a broken pelvis, Florence decided to move to Mount Ayr to be closer to family. Some of her most recent friendships since returning to Mount Ayr included folk at Mount Ayr United Methodist Church, bridge club at the senior center, book club and her home at Maple Ridge where she and Ruth Winkler conducted Sunday worship for the other residents during the Covid lockdown. At Maple Ridge and later at Mount Ayr Health Care, she loved all of her helpers. Having come through many difficulties with illness over her almost 101 years, she once said that God must have always had something new planned for her.
Florence passed away July 7, 2022. Florence was preceded in death by her parents, Carl and Julia Abarr, her husband, Dr. Charles Lawhead, and her son, Dr. Collus Lawhead.
Family remembering her legacy of faith, devotion and caring to each one include: Camille (Dick) Jackson of Kellerton, Jane Murphy Lawhead (Collus’ widow) of Mount Ayr and Dr. Carlin Lawhead (Vicki) of Muscatine; Grandchildren and great grandchildren, Racinda Jackson Godbold (David) Cyan, Liam and Grace of Severance, CO; Randall (Theresa) Jackson, Nicholas and Eleanor of Des Moines; Dr. Lauran (Dr. David) Hoffman and Brittyn of Missouri Valley, Dr. Ashton Hoffman of Cottonwood, AZ; David (Paula) Lawhead, Elijah and Corbin of Belleview, NE, Katy Lawhead of Madison, SD; and Dr. Christopher Lawhead and Connor Lawhead of Iowa City.
Armstrong Funeral Home in Mount Ayr is in charge of the arrangements.
Services were at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at the United Methodist Church in Mount Ayr, IA.
Officiating was Pastor Rick Hawkins.
Pianist was Debbie Cannon.
Congregational Hymns were “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Page 140 Methodist Hymnal, “Because He Lives” Page 364 Methodist Hymnal and “On Eagle’s Wings” Insert.
Casketbearers were Randall Jackson, David Lawhead, Christopher Lawhead, Connor Lawhead, David Hoffman and David Godbold.
Burial was at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Mount Ayr, IA.
Memorials are to the United Methodist Church, Mount Ayr Public Library and the Ringgold County Senior Center.

1 Comment

  1. Jay and Marilyn Monday on July 16, 2022 at 6:13 pm

    Our Prayers and thoughts are with you in your loss of your Beloved Mother,Grandmother and Great Grandmother Florence. Our paths have crossed in so many ways and years. We purchased our home at 606 West Madison in 1966 and became Neighbors to them. We laughed, cried, worshiped, socialized, vacationed, did business together and enjoyed just chatting in our yards. Florence and Jay shared a Birthday on August 20 which was special to them both. Florence always had a smile and very encouraging words just when you needed them! Memories are one of God’s greatest Gifts! And you have so many Beautiful ones! Jay and Marilyn Monday

Leave a Comment