LeGene was born July 13, 1927, in Mankato, Minnesota, to Lois and Louis W. Smith. She had a younger brother Bob.
She attended Iowa State University, graduating in 1949 with a degree in home economics. She was hired by the school system in Osage, Iowa, where she met and married James R. Vaughn in 1950.
LeGene left her teaching position at the end of the 1952 school year to start their family. In 1957, they moved to Powell, where Jim took a position as the high school counselor. In the following years, the family shared many drives through Yellowstone Park, camping trips in the Shoshone Forest, and time at their cabin in Red Lodge, Montana.
In 1962, LeGene opened a two-day, two-hour nursery school for 4-year-olds in the basement of their home. That first year, there were five enrollees, including their son. Over the next 23 years, enrollment in the Red Door Nursery School expanded to morning and afternoon classes for 15 students each that met three times weekly. LeGene’s enthusiasm for educating young children led her to help establish the Cooperative Preschool, now known as Head Start.
She and Jim remained active in retirement, enjoying time with friends and family, many hours at the cabin, traveling and attending Elderhostels, gardening, woodworking and crafts, cross-country skiing, and volunteering at their church.
LeGene was a generous, artistic, intelligent and witty woman. She was a humanitarian who actively tried to help make this world a better place. She enjoyed learning and challenging herself throughout her life. LeGene was often seen walking no matter what the weather. She especially loved her family, her friends and time spent at their cabin.
LeGene passed away peacefully on Jan. 27, 2020. Memorial services are pending.
She is survived by her three children, Nancy (Craig) Foster of Davenport Iowa, Julie (Miles) Bennett of Buffalo, Wyoming, and Jim (Tiea) Vaughn, Aberdeen, Washington; four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband Jim, and her mother, father and brother.
In memory of LeGene, you are invited to consider donating to a cause that touched her life: 1) Heart Mountain Interpretive Center (educating visitors on the WWII relocation experiences of Japanese Americans) 1539 Road 19, Powell, WY 83435; 2) Davenport Lutheran Home (who gave her excellent care) 1130 W. 53rd St., Davenport, IA 52807; 3) Head Start Preschool (which her passion for little ones helped start) 883 E. Seventh St., Powell, WY 82435.