(I recently had the privilege of sitting down with members of the Vernon Creighton family to learn more about Vern’s life, his passions and his unconditional love for his family and friends. The following excerpts are from that conversation, a few days following his passing, October 10, 2016.)
By Martha Jacob –
Vernon Creighton was well known around Brown County as a teacher, a principal and a school board member. But there was so much more to this ‘good’ man, than what most people ever knew.
When his eight year old granddaughter saw an auction flyer advertising peacocks she said, ‘Grandpa, I want a peacock. The entire family knew what was going to happen next. Grandpa and granddaughter were headed for an auction.
According to Vern’s son Andy, the auction in Georgetown lasted all day long and the peacocks were the last item to be auctioned off.
Before the bidding started on the peacocks, the auctioneer told the crowd that the seven peacocks were free range birds on 80 acres of land and had never been in a cage before. They all had to be caught by hand to take possession.
That didn’t matter to Grandpa, he was bidding on those peacocks, because he told his granddaughter she could have a peacock.
He bought all seven peacocks, and it took his son several weeks to trap them.
Vern loved being a grandpa to all six of his grandchildren. They all lived within a mile of him and that’s the way he liked it.
For as long as any of his children could remember, every Sunday was a time to get together as a family and share each other’s lives.
On June 3 this year, Vern and his wife Joy celebrated their 49th anniversary by traveling to Alaska (the 49th state). Vern was already making plans for his 50th wedding anniversary with a trip to Hawaii.
“Vern and I met when we were 16 at the Sardinia Methodist Church,” Joy said smiling, “At first I thought he was the most obnoxious guy I’d ever met, but we fell in love and have been in love for more than 50 years.”
Joy recalled the day the two were married, when they were 19. She remembered as they turned to walk back down the isle after being married, he stopped, turned to her and said… “Well Pest…we’ve done it now.”
“From that day on, that’s what he called me, Pest. And for the next 50 years of our life, I was never, ever offended by that, because I always knew it was said in love,” Joy said.
The family also talked about a small rock that Vern always carried in his pocket which had deep meaning to him.
During his 10 years as principal at Russellville Elementary School, the students would often bring Christmas gifts for their principal. Usually the gifts were little trinkets of some kind. But one little boy brought Principal Creighton a gift that he himself loved, a small colorful rock. When he gave it to his principal, Vern thanked the little boy for the beautiful gift and told him that the day he graduated from high school he would give it back to him.
Vern carried that little rock with him every day, on every vacation to every state in America. He cherished the gift.
Many years later he ran into the young man and offered it back to him but was told by the boy to keep it, because it belonged to him. The rock was in his pocket the day he died.
Vern spent 25 years teaching, 10 years as a principal and served about eight years as a school board member at Eastern School District.
“In all those years working with children,” Joy said, “Vern never left the house without having at least eight quarters in his pocket. He always said, you never know when a kid wouldn’t have enough lunch money, or needed milk money. He believed that no child should ever have to be without what they needed.”
Joy said that in the winter when it snowed, Vern was the first one out on his tractor, scraping all the neighbors driveways for them before they were even up.
Several years ago Vern was instrumental in organizing and being a part of a group called ‘Laborers for the Master’ which met once a month. The group’s goal was to help anyone who needed help. The group built wheel chair ramps, repaired floors for an elderly couple, mowed lawns all summer for those who couldn’t, even cut and hauled firewood for people who burned firewood for heat.
“The list of people who needed help just kept growing and growing,” Joy said. “It became almost overwhelming for Vern and the group to keep up with all the needs in our community. But Vern did all that he could. He made many friends through this Laborers for the Master group and he continued helping them even after the group disbanded.”
“My dad was always helping someone,” said son Andy, “that’s what we all saw our whole lives. He was a true hero to us all. But dad was also a very humble man and would probably be embarrassed knowing he was being acknowledged for doing the things he did. Dad would say to always take the high road, always do the right thing and help anyone you could and not expect to be paid for it.
“And that’s how myself and my two sisters have always lived our lives. He was the epitome of what a good father should be, what a good husband should be and definitely what a good grandfather should be. We will miss him forever.”
Vernon Creighton had an effect on everyone he ever met, he never held a grudge, he had few regrets and would help anyone and everyone who needed a helping hand.
Joy said that Vernon was the love of her life and added that he had a God-given talent to teach children.
Vernon Creighton’s Memorial Service was held at Southern Hills Career and Technical Center in Georgetown, where he was president of the board of education. The line of visitors seemed endless for several hours.