Mary Elizabeth (Bower) Gavitt

Dear Colleagues:

The campus community mourns the passing of Mary Elizabeth (Bower) Gavitt, 54, who died on Tuesday, May 9. Mary was employed as an Animal Caretaker in the Animal Behavior Laboratory; specifically the primate, since 1991.

Mary was born July 14, 1962, a daughter of the late Donald E. and A. Elizabeth (Gross) Bower and was raised in the country near Watsontown.

Like her Grandmother Gross, Mary had a passion for animals and the family home housed a menagerie of pets. Mary was an accomplished equestrian, riding her Tennessee Walkers, Encore and Scout. Mary was a social member of the Turbotville VFW Post 8206.

After her graduation from Warrior Run High School in 1980, Mary enrolled at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, PA. After her sophomore year, Mary had the opportunity to gain an internship at The University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious New Bolton Center in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The New Bolton Center, an academic large animal hospital, afforded Mary the opportunity to study at one of the busiest large animal teaching veterinary clinics in the nation.

In her role at Bucknell, Mary was extremely loyal and thoughtful, and she concerned herself with making the animals’ lives happy ones. In addition, Mary was instrumental in training students how to work with those intelligent creatures and was inevitably responsible for teaching the young people some life-lessons along the way. On May 26, 2009, Mary was awarded the John F. Zeller Award for Staff Excellence for her dedication and expertise as head animal caretaker. An additional award for 26 Years of Outstanding Service and Dedication to Primates was presented to her just prior to her death.

Mary is survived by her son, Adam W. Gavitt, (Amber Wagner) of Unityville; a stepson, Chester C. (Katlyn) Swank III, of Yeagertown; a stepdaughter; five grandchildren; a sister, Phyllis Williamson, of Watsontown; an aunt, Sally Bower Fairchild, of Wayne; and a nephew, Eric Harpster, of Northumberland. In addition to her parents, Mary was preceded in death by her first husband, Kevin W. Gavitt on June 14, 1998, and her second husband, Chester C. Swank Jr., on September 16, 2015.

Friends will be received from 5 to 7 pm, Friday, May 19, followed by a memorial service at 7 pm at McCarty-Thomas Funeral Home, 557 E. Water Street, Hughesville, with Chaplain Robert D. Barner officiating. Interment will be private at the convenience of the family.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Mary’s name the Animal Behavior Program, c/o Professor Peter Judge, 1 Dent Drive, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837.

Expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family at Members of the Bucknell Community are encouraged to visit our In Memoriam Site at and share personal notes of sympathy and remembrance with others.

On behalf of the entire Bucknell community, I extend our deepest sympathies to Mary’s family, as well as to all who knew her at Bucknell.

John C. Bravman

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