HARVARD — Charlanne Van Wormer, 71, died on Jan. 3, 2008, two and a half years after her diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
Mrs. Van Wormer’s volunteer work, which spanned four decades, began shortly after she moved to Harvard in 1963, when she served on the board of the Village Nursery School. She next joined Harvard Help, an organization dedicated to assisting townspeople with transportation and medical needs, and the Harvard Elm Commission. She was very active at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ayer, serving as a lay minister, junior warden, senior warden and secretary, as well as on several boards and committees.
In the 1970s, she participated in several Good Friday Walks for Hunger in the Hingham area, then in 1982 started a satellite Good Friday Walk in Harvard. She served for 17 years as a coordinator, director, fund-raiser, worker and walker, making the annual walk a success.
In 1982, Mrs. Van Wormer found an opportunity closer to home, helping to implement the vision of three friends by starting Loaves & Fishes, a local food pantry, to help neighbors afford both food and housing. Mrs. Van Wormer was a co-founder and worked from 1982 to 2002 as coordinator, director, steward and fund-raiser for Loaves & Fishes.
Mrs. Van Wormer sat on the board of directors of Harvard’s Council on Aging for six years. Upon her resignation in 2006, the board wrote that she was a “true champion” of Harvard’s seniors and thanked her for her “forever positive ‘can-do’ attitude.”
In her later years, Mrs. Van Wormer joined the Harvard Unitarian Universalist Church, where she participated in several committees and activities. She remained active in Harvard Help.
Mrs. Van Wormer was born June 16, 1936, in Hudson, N.Y., to Ruth Boyd Bailey and Edwin Taylor Bailey II. Her given name was derived from those of her two grandmothers, Charlotte and Annie. She read avidly, studied hard, played softball and field hockey and served as president of the student council. Both of her sibling recall how popular and outgoing their sister was and how the three dearly loved their extended family, especially their young uncles, Gilbert and Wallis Boyd, of Wallingford, Conn.
Mrs. Van Wormer turned down a New York State Regents scholarship, opting instead to study physical therapy at Bouvé College, which was part of Tufts University in Medford. She met her future husband, Kenneth Van Wormer, a professor of chemical engineering, in one of the dining halls at Tufts, and they were married on June 22, 1957. Their first two years together were spent as faculty residents in Carmichael Hall, a men’s dormitory at Tufts, during which time she completed her degree and gave birth to their first child.
In 1963, they moved from their home in Winchester to Harvard, where she and her husband devoted themselves to raising four children. Mrs. Van Wormer died peacefully in that same home, where so many wonderful memories were created.
Mrs. Van Wormer led a life full of activity, friendship and individual pursuits. She square-danced for years with the Sixteen Footers in Littleton and was active in the Harvard Bible Study group, the Harvard Garden Club and the Harvard Women’s Club.
Mrs. Van Wormer loved music and sang alto and soprano for many years with the Harvard Pro Musica and the St. Andrew’s Choir. She also worked behind the scenes for the Sounds of Concord, the barbershop chorus in which her husband sang. For 25 years, she joined her husband in participating in the annual Harvard Messiah Sing, enjoying in 2007 its cable broadcast in her living room, after her strength had failed.
Mrs. Van Wormer also loved to write. Her stories in The Harvard Post were appreciated and admired, as were her vivid, hand-written letters. She relished writing silly poems now and then for various birthday parties, anniversaries and other events, and wrote more serious pieces for a neighborhood writing group.
Her last party, the celebration of her and her husband’s 50th wedding anniversary, was a memorable occasion shared with many family and friends at The International in Bolton this past June, at which she was also honored for her many contributions to Harvard and its surrounding communities.
She is survived by her husband, Kenneth Augustus Van Wormer, of Harvard; her eldest son, Philip Van Wormer and his wife, Sandra, and their children Emily and Andrew, of Greenville, Del.; her daughter, Mary McGrath and her husband, Richard McGrath, of Bolton; her son, William Van Wormer and his wife, Julie, and their children Alec, Abigail and Maxwell, of Cranberry Township, Pa.; and her son, Robert Van Wormer and his wife, Ashley, and their children Bailey and Lily, of Cary, N.C. She is also survived by her brother, Edwin Taylor Bailey III, of Hudson, N.Y.; and sister, Karen Fonda, of Claverack, N.Y.; along with five nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held in the spring at the Harvard Unitarian Universalist Church, at a date and time to be announced. Arrangements are being handled for the family by the Badger Funeral Home, of Ayer.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Charlanne Van Wormer Memorial Fund of Loaves & Fishes and sent to Loaves & Fishes, P.O. Box 1, Ayer, MA 01432.