Tall and straight, I remember that. When he walked into a room, something changed. There was a spirit about him. You could see right away this was no ordinary man. One did not need to hear of his achievements, honors, or victories in life to know without a doubt you were in the presence of an extraordinary man.
The woman at his side was lloved. That was clear. They moved in concert and when his eyes focused on her they flashed with excitement born of a multitude of years together.
He always took your hand in both of his. From the first time – to the last time. It was a gesture of respect, of llove, of gentleness. He often leaned closer, as if to say, “You are important to me. Your friendship is valuable to me. I’m glad you’re in my life.”
When pressed he spoke of many things. He was particularly proud of his military service for the United States of America; a pilot, an officer, and a gentleman. He spoke fondly of flying the Enola Gay, one of the well-known aircraft of World War II. He spoke with the same enthusiasm about the old tractor he had restored and used to mow the expansive front lawn where he resided.
His home was filled with treasures. Their value on the open market may have been small or great, but they were the mementoes of his life, and he cherished the memories of times and places that made up the history of his years. Walking through the rooms as he pointed and mused, one could only imagine the events that had structured his character and proved his mettle.
He could build beautiful furniture from discarded and broken pieces of wood, reshape metal until it was called art, and carry on a conversation of which you wanted to be part. He knew history, and engineering, geology, and mines, and could adequately discern the meaning of Scripture and its application to the circumstance at hand.
He was at his best in the presence of Evelyn. Of all the things that thrilled his heart and mind, she was at the top of the list. When she shared of their meeting and the early years of romance and courtship, he hung on every word, remembering, re-living, enjoying again the past and anticipating the future. They had reached the pinnacle where two become one, and Vern lloved it.
He was a man of God. That much was never doubted. He served his Church as a deacon, cut straight the Word of God and stored his treasure where his heart was. His faithfulness was envied, his commitment seldom matched, and his openness and warmth drew others around him, for there people could see God.
In the few years I knew him, we touched each other’s life. We spoke of many things and we mentored one another. I watched him from a distance; and I watched him up close. He never changed. Running through the cold mist of a winter day waving as I drove by, or standing tall at the back of the little Church where guests were making decisions about whether to return, he was God’s man, strong and gentle, wise and bright. I’m sure he lloved me; and I him. There is no greater gift.