|Arva Luther Adams, age 96, Neenah, died peacefully in her sleep on July 10, 2012 after a long and rewarding life.
The second of two daughters, she was born April 4, 1916 in Sebastopol, California, to Arthur and Emma (Farnham) Luther. Her mother was a former schoolteacher, her father the district attorney of Santa Rosa County.
As a young woman Arva attended the University of California-Berkley. There she developed into a talented young artist and musician, winning juried exhibitions and performing as solo violin at recitals and concerts. This unusual combination of gifts was set aside when she married Henry Babcock Adams in 1937. Thereafter she refocused her creative energies on being a wife and mother.
In the 26 years that followed Arva gave birth to six children to whom she dedicated much of her life, encouraging their interests and careers in cryptography, architecture, medicine, estate management, writing and art. She similarly supported Henry’s professional callings first as a Presbyterian minister and then as a professor at the San Francisco Theological Seminary in California.
When Henry’s pursuit of a new life brought them to Neenah in 1972, Arva finally stepped forward as an individual in her own right. From that point on she became the driving force behind preserving the historic family home built by her husband’s grandfather, Havilah Babcock, one of the four founders of Kimberly Clark Corp.
As part of this newly found passion for historic preservation, Arva joined the Neenah Hisotricla Society and for more than a decade organized and produced the society’s popular docudramas. The most highly esteemed. “Charlie’s Best Girl,” presented the lifes tory of Theda Clark and reached an audience of more than 15,000 in three separate productions. Along with the plays, Arva coordinated and coauthored the society’s award-winning book, “A Tale of Twin Cities,” a history of the founding of Neenah and Menasha, communities which she came to embrace as her adoptive home.
At the same time Arva continued to actively support Henry in his new career, renovating and managing low income rental housing. Immersing herself in the cleaning and upkeep, she proved to be equally adept at bookkeeping and holding a tight rein on expenses. Arva similarly worked with Henry on his syndicated rental advice column, “So You’re Renting,” which ran for more than 20 years in the Post-Crescent. Producing the column a full decade after Henry’s death in 1994, she became generally recognized as the state’s leading expert on Wisconsin landlord-tenant law.
Embracing each phase of life as it came, Arva moved in 2005 to Island Shores where she finally considered herself retired. She nevertheless organized residents into an oral history project and found a calling in welcoming new residents, especially those in need of a loyal friend and confidant.
Spiritually a Jeffersonian Christian, Arva’s God was neither omnipotent nor punishing, but rather a wise and mentoring creator who loved and believed in her, asking only in return that she love and believe in others. This commitment she honored throughout her long life.
Arva’s genuine acceptance of all people, as well as her sympathetic ear and listening heart, will be greatly missed by everyone who fell under her spell.
Survivors include her six children: Robert Adams (Lenore Lewis), Stephen Adams, and Bonnie Neer, California; William (Linda) Adams, Utah; David (Judy) Adams, Colorado; and Peter (Patricia Mulvey) Adams, Neenah.
In addition to children, Arva leaves behind her six grandchildren: Linda Adams and Michael Adams (Rose Collins), Virginia; Scott (Mary) Adams, Oregon; and Jon (Kim) Adams, Thailand; and Gretchen Neer (Jared Burkes) and Carolyn Neer, California. There are also two step grandchildren: Jenny (Wayne) Ruemmele, Idaho, and Jeff (Brigitte) Keiser, Louisana.
Six great-grandchildren survive as well, along with more than a dozen nieces and nephews, including her sister’s two daughters, Carol (Jose) Chirinos, Florida, and Janet Montenko, California, to whom she was their beloved “Auntie Arva”.
Arva is further survived by her former daughter in law Ann Hoffman, Pennsylvania, and by her former son in law, William Neer, California with whom she formed a particularly close and continuing bond of love and affection.
Special mention must also be given to the community at Island Shores. In Arva’s final months, her memory reduced to only a dim recognition of familiar faces, the staff and residents showered Arva with the kind of love and affection usually reserved for a much beloved family member. Additional caring attention was provided by the staff and volunteers of the Theda Care hospice program.
Preceding Arva in death were her husband, her parents, her sister and brother in law, Angela and George McParland, and her son Robert’s wife, Marilyn (Patterson) Adams. Henry’s sisters, brothers, and their respective spouses are also all deceased.
Arrangements for a private service of remembrance are being handled by her son Peter Adams. A memorial in Arva’s name has been established with the Neenah Historical Society, P. O. Box 343, Neenah, WI 54956.