After serving his country in World War II, Ernest D. Lavorini came home to Federal Way and served his community.
Lavorini was drafted in 1942 and served with the 21st U.S. Naval Construction Battalion – better known as the Seabees – in the Pacific Theater. The Seabees built bases, bridges, roads, airstrips, piers and more for the U.S. armed forces.
Lavorini and his wife, Grace, eventually settled down in Federal Way and had two children, Barbara and Gary. Lavorini ran a service station and ended up owning a popular burger joint called Lester’s Drive-In in the 1960s (site of today’s Burger Express). He was a prominent member of the Masonic Lodge, DeMolay International and the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, and had also served as a president of the Federal Way Lions Club.
Many of the returning veterans had a sense of duty to get involved with their community, said Karen Meador, the activities and administrative coordinator for the Historical Society of Federal Way.
“He was part of the group of post-World War II veterans who set the foundation for today’s Federal Way,” Meador said. “He’s the American experience on a local level.”
Lavorini died in 2001 at age 84, and he has no surviving direct descendants. However, the story of his life has been preserved thanks to a woman who bought his old house on South 336th Street in Federal Way. The new homeowner found seven boxes that contained Lavorini’s photos, letters, mementos and even his Navy uniform – and she donated the items last March to the Historical Society.
The donation has spurred more research. Dorothy Burt, archivist for the Historical Society, has since unearthed newspaper clippings that show Lavorini on the front page as a member of the Chamber of Commerce.
“We have pieces of all the parts of his life,” Burt said.
The Historical Society houses other items that pay tribute to Federal Way’s veterans, including a large wooden plaque that lists all the local young men who signed up for the draft on Dec. 8, 1941 – the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
To learn more or make a donation, visit the Historical Society of Federal Way online at federalwayhistory.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 253-945-7842. The society is located at 2645 S. 312th St.
By Andy Hobbs, Federal Way Mirror