William Levan Thurman

The Dean of Ray County Morticians, W. Levan Thurman, 94, of Richmond, died Thursday, June 15, 2017, at Shirkey Nursing & Rehabilitation in Richmond.

Funeral services are 11 a.m., Tuesday, June 20, at Richmond United Methodist Church with Reverends Jeremy Blevins and Donald Smith officiating. Burial with military honors will be in Sunny Slope Cemetery, Richmond. Visitation is 10 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at the church. Memorials are suggested to the Richmond United Methodist Church or the Friends of The Farris.

William Levan Thurman was born April 1, 1923, in Richmond, to E. and Maude Bealmer Thurman. He attended Richmond public schools and graduated from Richmond High School in 1941. He grew up in the era of big bands and enjoyed listening and dancing to the music of the time. He enjoyed playing trombone in high school and college and played in different local bands during that time. Following graduation, Levan attended and graduated from Wentworth Military Academy Junior College in Lexington in 1943. There he was president of the Tau Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Scholastic Fraternity. He received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point based on his academic record. He declined the nomination, realizing that World War II would probably be over before he graduated.

Upon graduation from Wentworth, with an A.A. degree, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1943 and served in the reserve unit for which he had volunteered and was called to active duty. In May of 1943, he was assigned to the 42nd Infantry and “Rainbow Division.” After several months of training, his unit was sent to the ETO, landing in France one week before the Battle of the Bulge broke. His regiment was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its part in the Alsace-Ardennes Campaign and he received a Bronze Star for Meritorious and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Upon his return from Europe, he landed in New York City on his 21st birthday.

A few months after returning home, he attended and graduated from the St. Louis College of Mortuary Science. After graduating, he joined the family business, Thurman Funeral Home in Richmond, which his parents had founded in 1922.

On June 30, 1948, he married Mary Louise Carter, a lifelong friend, in a ceremony at the First Christian Church in Richmond. After nearly 62 years of marriage, she preceded him in death June 15, 2010. Together they worked side by side to form one of the most highly respected funeral homes in Missouri. Later, their son, Bruce, joined the firm. Besides the Richmond firm, they also established firms in Hardin and Norborne, before selling several years ago. Following the death of his first wife, he married Marguerite Montgomery. She also preceded him in death.

Levan joined Richmond United Methodist Church at an early age and had been very active in every capacity of the church, serving on various boards. Known for his resonant speaking and singing voice, he was liturgist for special occasions and sang bass in the Chancel Choir for more than 45 years.

In 1946, he joined Richmond Kiwanis Club, where he served as a board member and past president. He was a past Lt. Governor of Division III of the MO-ARK District of Kiwanis International. He was one of the first of two club members to be awarded the George F. Hixson Fellowship Membership.

Being civically minded, he was a 50-year member of the Richmond Masonic Lodge AF & AM 57, York Rite, Chapter and Commandery, Royal Arch Masons, Ararate Shrine of Kansas City, Richmond Shrine Club, American Legion Post 237, and VFW Post 4398. Other memberships included Ray County Historical Society, where he served as board member, Ray County Genealogical Society, Richmond Chamber of Commerce, where he had served as vice president, the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society, and a lifetime member of Wentworth Military Academy Alumni Association. He served on the advisory boards of Sunny Slope Cemetery and Richmond Memory Gardens, and was instrumental in erecting permanent markers for Richmond Cemetery and Sunny Slope Cemetery. He was a founding member along with his late wife, Mary, of the Friends of the Farris. He served as vice president of the original board and was later granted the title of Director Emeritus. He appeared in all the musicals of the Kiwanis Theater Guild and was an original member of the Kiwanis Quartette.

He served on the board of directors of Hardin Federal Savings Bank for many years, before it was purchased by Bank Midwest. He was a 50-year member of the Missouri Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association, and past President of the 4th District of MFDEA. He was a former member of the National Funeral Directors Association and National Selected Morticians. He comforted hundreds of families during his service to the community.

Survivors include: his son, Bruce L. Thurman, of Kansas City, Mo.; his daughter, Lynne C. Murray, and her husband, Kevin, of Leawood, Kan.; two granddaughters, Clare C. Hubbell, of British Virgin Islands and Ann C. Hubbell-Diefenbauch, and her husband, Nick, of St. Louis; a nephew, James Reed, of Lake Lotawana and a niece, Patricia Bedner, of Emporia, Kan.

Levan was preceded in death by three sisters, Fern Shotwell, Leta Ross and Mayzoe Reed; and one nephew, Herb Shotwell Jr.

Following interment, the family will host a reception at Shirkey Golf Club in Richmond, to which all are invited to attend.

Arrangements are under the direction of Weiker Funeral Home in Slater.

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