With a life that spanned times of war and times of peace, times of plenty and times of want, Vernon Zander made the most of the days he was given. He was hardworking, kind, and helpful with a determination to succeed in whatever he put his mind to. Vernon was deeply devoted to his family, his friends, and his community in ways both great and small. Eager to serve, he devoted much of his life to others without an expectation of anything in return. Vernon could come off as a bit gruff on the outside, but inside he had a heart of gold. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
It was great to be an American during the 1920s. Radios, washing machines, and motion pictures in both color and sound were all signs of the time. Broadway was at its all time peak, and baseball legends Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth made baseball America's favorite pastime. It was just as this decade was dawning that Herbert and Lillian (Lafky) Zander were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Vernon F. on October 25, 1920, in Warren Township of Winona County, Minnesota. Born on the family farm on Wilson Ridge, Vernon's family moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, when he was just nine months old. With them they brought two Titon tractors and plows as well as other farm equipment. They needed a four horse team to pull equipment, and they also brought all the necessary household equipment hauled by grandpa's International Truck. While they were gone, they rented out their farm. Living in Canada meant there were huge blizzards intertwined with extreme cold. Vernon recalled a time that it was -52 degrees with Chinook winds. He was fascinated with stories from his elementary teacher who had been a POW during WWI. Vernon grew up with his dog, Satan, that a hired man renamed Sailor.
After 12 years in Canada, Vernon and his family returned to Lewiston and lived with grandparents. Sadly, their family found they had lost their farm because a renter didn't pay the taxes. Vernon attended local schools and was known for his excellent penmanship. He enjoyed hunting, but he never killed anything. After taking a two year absence from school, Vernon returned to school, attending with men from the CCC. Those two years of school were a time of embarrassment for him because of the clothes he had to wear. Vernon proudly graduated from Lewiston High School in 1941.
New and exciting changes were in store for Vernon when he met a woman named Merle Grant. They met while he was living on a farm near Wyatville, and at the time she was teaching school near his home. They began dating, frequently attending movies. With a desire to establish a life together they were married on June 16, 1944. They farmed together for a time, but when she told Vernon she didn't want to be a farmer's wife they sold it all and moved to town. In 1962 he began selling insurance, initially on his own. Vernon later sold insurance for Rollingstone Mutual Insurance Company. It was also in 1962 that he began serving as mayor of Lewiston, remaining in this position for a total of 20 years. Vernon also helped establish the first volunteer ambulance service in Minnesota. Prior to this establishment, funeral homes took care of the ambulance needs in the community. In 1980, Vernon was deeply saddened with the death of his beloved Merle.
As the only child in his family, Vernon didn't want to be alone. For this reason, he dated Ardyce Langseth several times. But, Ardyce told him she should date Adele Crossfield, whom he knew as a child as their families were close. Ardyce and Adele had recently driven to LaCrosse, and Adele talked about Vernon all the way. He was a bit concerned about the fact that she was 20 years younger, but he did start doing things with Adele as friends. The friendship blossomed into a romance, and they were married a short time later after Vern told her, "He hears she was going to be an old maid and wanted to save her from that." Adele relented to him, "I can't fight him so I may just as well join him," and with that, they married on December 23, 1980, at St Paul's UCC in Lewiston. A true gentleman, Vernon went to Merle's family and asked their permission to marry Adele as he had remained very close to her family. They agreed as long as they could meet Adele. The couples became very close friends. Vern always spoke of being married 36 years to Merle and 37 years to Adele but never having a 50th anniversary. Vernon and Adele shared many interests including fishing, traveling, gardening, playing cards, traveling South to Needles, California, every winter, and cooking. He always helped out with the household chores, especially in his later years. Vernon's job was always to put the dishes away. Their nightly routine consisted of turning the television off at 9 p.m. every night and then playing Cribbage or Farkel and having snacks.
Always one to keep busy, Vernon was a man of many interests. He made a great apple crisp, and even with a breathing tube in he was asking for pizza. Vernon enjoyed listening to old John Deremus radio online, and as a travel enthusiast he had made many great trips around the world. Within his community, he was a member of St. Paul's Church as well as the Lewiston Lions Club, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Masonic Lodge, and Shriners. Vernon also looked forward to spending time with his close friend, Bob Siebenaler.
All who knew Vernon Zander would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. He was deeply devoted to his loved ones, telling Adele that he loved her 25,000 times whenever she asked. Vernon could be determined, even bull-headed at times, but he was also passionate about the people and things he believed in. Although he will be dearly missed, he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
Vernon F. Zander, of Lewiston, died Monday, May 7th, 2018, at Mayo Clinic Hospital, St. Mary's Campus. Vernon's family includes his wife, Adele, and many nieces and nephews. Vernon was preceded in death by his first wife, Merle. Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 15th, 2018, at St. Paul's Church in Lewiston with the Revs. Scott Crossfield and Brenda Crossfield officiating. Burial will follow services in Frank Hill Cemetery, rural Wilson. A visitation and reception will be from 12:30 p.m. until time of services at the church on Tuesday. The Fireman's Prayer will be recited at 1 p.m., followed by an Order of the Eastern Star service. Members of the Lewiston Volunteer Fire Department will serve as pallbearers. Please share a memory of Vernon and view his video tribute when it becomes available at www.hofffuneral.com.
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My fondest memory is playing golf with Vernon and Adele at the Lewiston Country Club every year when I was home visiting. And, he and Adele came to O’Fallon, MO when my husband and I got married - Mike and I still talk about how glad we were that they made the trip for our wedding. Vernon never, if ever, missed a Lafky family reunion. He will be missed! Kerrie Lafky
Vernon was a special guy. I enjoyed typing up his life story as I really got to know him well. I will miss his sense of humor. This was evident even in his final days. He was a lucky guy to have a devoted wife and able to do things and go many places. It was an honor to spend his last few days with him. We had lots of laughs, singing songs as his bedside and reassuring him we would take care of Adele. Love always, Peggy
It was a blessing and an honor to have Vernon in my life. While we grew up very close family friends with both Vernon and Merle, having him become our family was even more special. I will forever cherish the memories spent...Lewiston days, helping address Christmas cards for Rollingston Mutual, playing cards, being a part of the many activities during my younger years at St Paul's church, drinking wine, discussing life and the UCC, and especially being able to spend the last day and a half of your life here on earth. Thank you for the laughs, your strong faith, and celebrating the NEW life you have entered into. Love forever.....Debby
What an amazing person and what a remarkable life. I feel so lucky you were a part of my winter family for a couple of years. Thanks for letting me beat you at cards - once or twice. We sure had some great times at NorthShore. You were always such a good sport with whatever plan Adele and I came up with. I am going to miss you and your smile Mr. Vern.
Your friendship and card games made my time in North Shore fun. You MN. and AZ. friend shirley
My Godfather/Uncle Vernon will be so missed! I’m so glad I was able to spend time with you and Aunt Adele one last time to play Manitoba Rummy. What I wouldn’t do for another day of playing cards, laughing and spending time together! I will teach Keondre how to play in your absence! But it won’t be the same without you! Adele please know I am here whenever you need! ❤️ Rebecca, Kenyatta and Keondre
What a wonderful man. Growing up next to Vern and Adele was such great fun. We’d get to find the secret stash of Heath bars, babysit the Hibiscus tree for the winter, and most importantly, I admired watching them respond to Ambulance calls in their orange jump suits. As a young I didn’t know my career path would lead me to EMS, but having this memory certainly contributed to my successes, knowing such wonderful people in the world were volunteering to serve their community. Rest in Peace Vern and God Bless.
Sad to know that Vernon is no longer with us. He had a wonderful long life and many blessings. We pray that the Lord gives Adele strength to go on this journey alone. Our love and sympathy. Fred and Marilyn Crossfield
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