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Victoria nonprofit founder dies after contracting West Nile virus in Dallas

By BY JESSICA PRIEST - JPRIEST@VICAD.com
Aug. 28, 2012 at 3:28 a.m.
Updated Aug. 29, 2012 at 3:29 a.m.


memorial service

A service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 106 N. DeLeon St., to allow family to return from overseas.

CASA, which started its work in 1977, has 90 volunteers. It'll honor Geffert's memory with an endowment fund to recruit even more.

Contributions may be sent to P.O. Box 1627, Victoria, TX 77902 or made online at goldencrescentcasa.org.

Victoria is mourning one of the driving forces behind a group that works to help abused and neglected children.

Audrey Geffert, a life-long Crossroads resident, was a founding member of the Golden Crescent's branch of the nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA.

Geffert died Friday at the Baylor Hospital in Carrollton - days after contracting the West Nile virus while visiting family in Dallas.

She was 82.

Her sister Gwendolyn Fenner, of Houston, said the family is still reeling.

"We don't know how she got it," she said, describing how a bout of what appeared to be normal sleepiness turned into a hospital stay.

A spinal tap finally got them answers.

"They say all it takes is one mosquito," she said.

Fenner said she'll miss Geffert's "infectious" laugh and lending an ear whenever she wanted to talk politics.

She served as an administrative assistant to former state Rep. Joe Wyatt for 10 years.

He said no citizen's problem was ever too small for Geffert to tackle, whether it was regarding education at the University of Houston-Victoria or the environment of nearby bays and estuaries.

"She certainly helped me tremendously and took care of constituents," Wyatt said.

Geffert's CASA peers also say she was a joy, a sort of energizer bunny.

Mary Lasater, the group's board president, said Geffert was a fixture at nearly every CASA function.

"You could really count on her to be there," Lasater said.

The victimized kids slogging through an overburdened welfare system certainly could, she said.

Former CASA board president Mary Ann Menning said she was like a megaphone for the voiceless.

"She wanted to make sure every child had their needs met," she said, especially in the eight-county region they cover. "There's such a lack of foster homes. ... It's a problem people don't want to face."

Kerry McCan, also a founding CASA board member, described the redhead as a strong woman.

"She'll be deeply missed," McCan said.

CASA Executive Director Tim Hornback vowed meanwhile to continue to fulfill CASA's mission, placing abused children in nurturing homes. He said it is what Geffert would have wanted.

"We really expected her back right about now," he said, wistfully.

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