Joseph Vernon Leavitt, 86, passed away on November 17, 2022, in his home in Eagle, Idaho. Joe was born in Ocean Park, CA, to Joseph Page Leavitt and Louise Nelle (Wietske Petronella) Nauta on July 8, 1936. He was raised in Southern California but also spent time in his early years living near extended family in the tiny southern Utah community of Gunlock. As a result of very frugal times in his early years, Joe learned the value of hard work and of carefully using all available resources—attributes he exemplified his entire life.
When Joe was 14 years old, missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visited his family, an unlikely encounter given the family’s residence miles off of the main road in the Angeles National Forest. This meeting resulted in Joe’s earliest spiritual experience and the birth of his lifelong testimony of Jesus Christ; he held that experience dear and shared it with loved ones up to his final days. In sharing his testimony, Joe invited listeners to think deeply: “Sometimes inspiration is hard-earned. . . . You don’t get answers to things you don’t have questions about!”
A bright mind, Joe studied electrical engineering at BYU and served in the Air Force as a radar operator. It was during his Air Force years that he met Karen Mary Jensen, a beautiful friend of a friend. Joe and Karen were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1959. They were blessed with four children and brought up their young family in Southern California.
Some years after his wife Karen was taken by cancer, Joe met Raila Marita Tammisto. She brought beauty, comfort, and her three children to Joe’s world. Joe and Raila joined their families in 1980. Over the years, their home became a wonderful gathering place for reunions and celebrations.
While living in Southern California, Joe engaged in a successful 35-year career with IBM. Over the course of his career, he was frequently recognized for his innovation and customer service. His interest and aptitude in working with technology was just as evident in his home life as it was in his professional life. His children recall electronic toys and home entertainment enhancements that were well ahead of the market, as well as photographs produced in his home lab.
Joe could often be found in the quiet space of his office, where he combined his technical and problem-solving skills to pursue one of his passions—family history work. Joe served the Western Association of Leavitt Families in various capacities over the years, from managing the family database and writing newsletters to rededicating the Sarah Sturtevant Leavitt monument site. Family and church members alike knew they could turn to Joe for help in finding their ancestors.
Joe will be remembered for his thoughtful and deep study of gospel topics, sage advice and wisdom, innovative DIY projects, unmatched passion for genealogy, and quiet happiness in watching (and often participating in) his grandchildren’s antics during their visits.
We will miss Joe dearly but envision his joyful reunion reconnecting with loved ones who passed on ahead of him, including his parents, wife Karen, and son Mark Daniel Leavitt. Joe is survived by his wife Raila Leavitt; children Denene (Doug) Crandall, Jared (Stephanie) Leavitt, Aaron (Melissa) Leavitt, Denise (Dave) Carter, Aaron (Christina) Brackney, and Jasan (Heather) Brackney; 25 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and sisters Billie Mae Lee and Phyllis Olive.
Memorial services will be held on December 10, 2022, with a viewing at 9:00 a.m. and services starting at 10:00 a.m. at the LDS church on 700 West State Street, Eagle. Interment will be at the Dry Creek Cemetery (9600 Hill Road, Boise) and will be followed by a family luncheon back at the church.
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