“Hi Chicken Foot.”
That is the greeting Vern Perry gave his grandchildren, and many of the foster children who came through his daughter and son-in-law’s home. What is a chicken foot? Well, it is a lot like a spitzbuben. It’s Vernonese for “I love you.”
Vernon Perry was born August 23rd 1928 in Beaumont, Texas, the oldest of three children. It is probable that God was being kind to Nellie McGrew Perry and Vernon Alvis Perry Sr. by arranging things that way because by the time Carroll Ray and Barbara Lorraine came along, their parents had grown mightily in parenthood.
The family attended South Park Baptist Church, where they were very active. Vern and little brother Carroll came home from church one day with their pockets full of screws. When their mother asked where they got them, they confessed they had removed the screws from the pew in front of them during the service. The screws were speedily returned.
Then there was the offering-taking. When youth gathered the South Park offering, Vern would ask Carroll Ray, at the end, “How much did you get?” Their mother believed they were joking. Their sister wasn’t sure.
After high school, Vern enlisted in the Army and served as a surgical/medical technician. He continued this calling when he returned to civilian life, becoming a licensed vocational nurse. And it was during this stint in the service that he met his first wife, Betty Petersen. She was working for the Red Cross at Fitzsimmons Army hospital in the recreation hall. He proposed on their first date. She didn’t accept. In fact, it was months before he got his first kiss. She finally accepted his proposal at Fitzsimmons with the understanding that he would send for her at his next post and they would be married.
He was transferred to Camp Beal in California and from there to Fort Lawton in Washington where he sent for Betty to come marry him. They spent the next fifty years together living first in Washington where they had their first child Caryl Ann. Then they moved to Texas and from there to Colorado where their son Robert Lynn was born. Except for a short stint in Wasco, California, most of his married life was spent in Colorado.
Vernon earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and became a toxicologist for the US Government. During his time with Fish and Wildlife, he studied the decline of the sand hills crane, even flying to another state to testify in a hearing concerning possible contamination as a cause. He also was one of the men in charge of quality control when the Army destroyed its nerve gas bombs at the US Arsenal in Commerce City Colorado.
Vern retired in 1984 and joined Interchurch ARMS—the Arvada Resource for Ministry and Service. He then took a course in chaplainry and began his second life’s work volunteering as a chaplain in nursing homes and at the Lutheran Hospital. His volunteer work lead to him to another ministry called “Forgotten Treasures.” He happily handed out business cards from “Forgotten Treasures” a ministry to nursing home residents where he shared scriptures and used his beautiful voice to lead them in favorite hymns. In 2008 his volunteer work was recognized in an article from the University of Denver Magazine
In 1992, Vern was chosen as the Grand Marshal of the Old Arvada Parade for their annual Harvest Festival.
In 1998, Betty Perry went to be with her Lord after a long battle with ovarian cancer. In January of 1999, Vern married Jeanne Solum at Arvada Covenant Church. Pastor Wes Swanson commented, “Who would believe 50 degrees in January and who’d believe Vern and Jeanne?
Marriage to Jeanne was far different from his life with Betty, but it was rich and fulfilling. Asked about the differences in their personalities, Vern said, “Betty didn’t say much but Jeanne talks all the time.” It wasn’t a change he minded, and the marriage yielded new children and grandchildren for Vern to enjoy. He especially liked hosting get-togethers at the mountain cabin, where he would hand out walking sticks, and lead forays into the woods on the way to the river. He would stop at campsites along the way where he instructed his guests to sit and rest while he spun yarns about the area.
In June of 1999, Vern’s much-loved son Bob passed away. Losing his wife and son in so short a time was devastating, but God had given Vernon a helpmeet to stand beside him in his grief.
With Vern’s biological grandchildren living so far from him, his stepchildren and step grandchildren became a source of increasing pleasure. They often camped out in the Perry living room. And on those occasions when his biological family gathered at the mountain cabin for holidays or at the lake cabin for a weekend, he was at the zenith of joy. With people sleeping in every nook and alcove, it might have been the Walton family. Except, the family remembers the time after lights out when they could clearly hear Jeanne and Vern’s loud smooching and the giggles—not from the assorted kids and teens, but from their grandparents.
Vern had several bouts of illness in his youth, one of which left him with diminished lung function. As he aged, the problem became more pronounced. It was obvious that his time on earth was limited, but his faith assured him that God would sustain him. On Saturday, April 7th, Vernon joined his parents, his first wife Betty, his son Robert Lynn, his grandson Chad and granddaughter Whitney Nicole at the throne of God.
Surviving Vernon, and heirs to his legacy of faith and love, are his wife Jeanne; brother Carroll Ray and his wife Claire Jean of San Antonio, Texas; his sister Barbara and husband Gene VanMeter of Beaumont Texas; his step-son Bruce Solum of Littleton, Colorado; step-daughters Karen and husband Steve Metzger of Walker, Louisiana; Colleen and husband Jim Mead of Morrison, Colorado; Kay and husband Barry Moore of Arvada, Colorado; 23 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren. He is also missed by his “adopted grandchildren,” his nieces and nephews, and a host of other family and friends.
And certainly, to each of them Vern would say as he waved goodbye, “See you soon, Chicken Foot.”
There was a bedside service Saturday morning, April 7th. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 AM, Friday, April 13th at Arvada Covenant Church.
Gifts in memory of Vern may be made to Interchurch ARMS, 5400 Ward Road, Bldg #2, Suite 106, Arvada, CO 80002 or Hospice of Covenant Care, 9101 Harlan Street, Suite 135, Westminster, CO 80031.