Born and raised in St. Paul's historic Rondo neighborhood, LaVera Daisy never strayed too far from home, devoting her life to her community with activism, music and a storied legacy rooted in faith and justice.
Daisy, 73, died Feb. 17 after being struck by a vehicle while walking through the Veterans Affairs parking lot in Minneapolis with her husband, Leon Daisy, who remains hospitalized in critical condition. He was at the VA to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but they never made it to the front door.
"I wasn't expecting this, my wife leaving me before I leave her," Leon Daisy said in a recent phone interview from his hospital bed, recovering from the crash that left him with a fractured hip, pelvis and vertebrae.
Despite the tragic loss of the person he could always depend on throughout 40 years of marriage, he said, "I have peace of mind. I can't blame anyone for what happened."
Daisy said he learned after he was taken to HCMC that his wife died of internal bleeding from the vehicle impact.
"It doesn't make a lot of sense," Leon Daisy said. "I'm in a lot of pain, can't walk. ... The gentleman hit my wife and I could hear her screaming. ... I had no idea if the guy was having a heart attack or stroke. I left before they could get him out of his car."
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office reported the cause of death was blunt force injuries and the manner of death was accidental. The VA's police department is investigating.
LaVera Daisy was visiting a girlfriend in Tacoma, Wash., in 1975 when she met Leon at the military base where he was stationed with the girlfriend's husband. The two hit it off on a blind date, and Leon Daisy later moved from California to St. Paul so they could be together. They married April 15, 1979.
The couple built a house two blocks from Central High School, where LaVera Daisy graduated in 1965 in the midst of Interstate 94 construction that disconnected and razed much of Rondo, the commercial and social heart of St. Paul's Black community.
"It destroyed and upset the community," she told the Star Tribune in 2000 while serving as a board member of the annual Rondo Days.
Daisy held many leadership roles, including president of the Marshall-Concordia Block Association and board member of the nonprofit Rondo Avenue Inc. She was a longtime member of the Minnesota Chapter of Prince Hall Order of the Eastern Star; both her parents had been members, Leon Daisy said.
"She has a legacy," he said.
Daisy said his wife loved ice skating, skiing and singing. She was an early member of the three-time Grammy Award-winning Twin Cities group Sounds of Blackness.
"LaVera was an amazing soprano not only within the ensemble but as a soloist," said Gary Hines, the group's producer and director. "She was a real gem, a real addition to the group and also a gem of a human being."
Though LaVera Daisy had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and had several neck surgeries over the years, the couple managed to stay active in their community and began snowbirding in 2006.
That same year, they told the Star Tribune that Rondo Days will go on, but LaVe-ra Daisy urged the youth raised in her community to get involved and carry on the celebration.
"We've got a legacy to pass on to them," she said.
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751