Obituary: Vern W. Vonheeder (Aug. 7, 1919 – Dec. 13, 2013)

By Submitted February 21, 2014 01:41 pm

Vern W. Vonheeder
Vern W. Vonheeder
Vernon (Vern), Dad, was born on Aug. 7, 1919, to Charles and Wilhelmina Vonheeder in Audubon County, Iowa. The last of seven surviving siblings: Raymond, Byron, Elnora, Charles, Jr., Ruby, and Wilma, all of whom predeceased him.

Vern left “the farm” in his teens. He arrived in Chicago, Ill., where, at Palwaukee Airport, now Chicago Executive Airport, he logged the first of a few thousand hours in the air. By 1940 he had arrived in Southern California, where he studied aircraft welding and metalworking. While employed at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, he met Evellyn Howard. They married in July 1941, beginning a 42-year love affair which ended only when Evellyn succumbed to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in November of 1983. 

Vern was working for the Navy at NAS Alameda, Calif., when called to military service in 1944. He served at the Naval Aviation Technical Training Command at Norman, Okla. Released from active duty at the war’s end, Vern returned to NAS Alameda. He also continued as a Naval reservist; becoming a flight crew member for the Navy’s P-2V Neptune. These careers intertwined for over 30 years until Dad retired at 60 from the reserves as Senior Chief Aviation Metalsmith and, shortly thereafter, as General Foreman from the facility at Alameda. 

While at Alameda, Dad became involved with the military flying club; continuing his civilian flying and earning certifications leading to his appointment as an FAA designated Flight Examiner. 

Vern loved the outdoors. Vacations spent backpacking 20 miles into the high Sierras east from Yosemite Valley were annual outings for several years. Visits to national and state parks and forests (including California’s own redwoods, from the Sequoias to the North Coast) were frequent vacation activities. 

Community activities included the same love of the outdoors. Vern was longtime Scouter with the Boy Scouts of America. He became Course Director for the Boy Scouts of America’s “Woodbadge” adult leadership training. For his scouting activities, he was honored with the BSA’s “Silver Beaver” award in 1971.

Following Evellyn’s passing in 1983, Dad drifted back towards his Midwestern roots. By the early 1990s he was in Wisconsin, where he met Bernice Imig. They were married in 1994. He continued his flying activities until his age and health made it seem to him that flying for the occasional “hundred dollar hamburger” was no longer much fun. He logged his last hour and sold his Cessna 182.

As health issues began to plague him, he returned to California in 2007 and took up residence at Addie Meedom House, where he lived for six years until passing peacefully on Dec. 13, 2013. 

Vern is survived by his wife Bernice of Wausau, Wis.; sister-in-law Lynn Taylor of Mesa, Ariz.; sons Vernon Jr. (Nancy) of College Place, Wash.; Vincent (Dianne) of Crescent City and Val (Donna) of Palm Bay, Fla. He also leaves stepdaughters Cindy, Pam and Barbara, their respective spouses and many beloved nephews and nieces, grandchildren and great-grandchildren..

Please sign the family’s online guest book at wiersmortuary.com.

Arrangements are under the direction of Wier’s Mortuary Chapel.