SPARTA - Vernon Lee Kessel Jr., 68, of Sparta, passed away Feb. 10, 2014, in St. John's Hospital Hospice in Springfield, surrounded by several of his family members.
He was born Aug. 30, 1945, in Sparta, to Vernon and Jackie (Glasscock) Kessel.
He was a member of the BBK Post 480 American Legion - Steeleville, Sparta VFW Post 2698, and the Howard County Vietnam Veterans Organization in Kokomo, Ind.
He was a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cutler for many years as an adult and regularly attended Trinity United Pres-byterian Church in Sparta as a child.
He most recently worked as a security therapy aide at Chester Mental Health Center (a member of AFSCME 31 Local 424) and was previ-ously employed by Eldorado Chemical Company, Hepp Drilling, and at Zeigler Coal-Spartan Mine 2 (a UMWA member).
He served his country in the U.S. Navy from 1963-1972 during the Vietnam War era. During this time, he traveled the world serving aboard the USS Guadalcanal, the USS Coral Sea, and the USS Midway. He was also part of the primary recovery efforts for the Gemini 10 reentry capsule.
He never met a stranger and would strike up a conversation with anyone he encountered. Anyone that knew him well, knew he was a "funny" guy and was always making jokes. Some knew him as "the ice man" when he owned and operated the Cutler Ice Company out of his home in the late 1990s.
In 2012, he was able to take two big trips including one to Arkansas where he dug for diamonds at a state park and another trip to Wash-ington D.C. to see all of the war and service memorials.
One of the things he looked forward to every year for the past 20 plus years was attending the Howard County Vietnam Veterans Organi-zation's annual reunion in Kokomo, Ind. It was there that he was surrounded by other men and women that served our country and he was most at ease.
He is survived by his children, Valerie Kessel Barton and Chad Barton of Mount Juliet, Tenn., and Kara Kessel and Gary Hopewell of Belleville, and their mother, LouAnn Eggemeyer of Sparta, as well as Laura Hepp Kessel and Andrew Thornton of Springfield, and Vernon Kessel III of Campbell Hill, and their mother, Sheryl Kessel of Campbell Hill. He is also survived by his grandsons, Vernon Kessel IV and Graisen Kessel of Boonville, Mo.; his sister, Verna (the late Paul) Moeller and his brother, Charles "Chuck" (Rose) Kessel all of Sparta, as well as many nieces, nephews, aunts, cousins, friends, colleagues and his "Kokomo family."
He was preceded in death by his parents and an infant sister, Loretta Kessel.
His positive attitude, strength and determination were an inspiration to those around him as he battled cancer for more than a decade.
Vernon was able to donate the gift of sight to others through the Gift of Hope organization.
Services will be at 1 p.m. in Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cutler, with Pastor Mike Higgerson officiating. Graveside services will fol-low in Cutler Cemetery. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 in Wilson's Funeral Home in Steeleville, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, at the church.
Memorials may be made to the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight program, Vernon's Crew
, or the Howard County Vietnam Veterans Organization.
Wilson's Funeral Home in Steeleville is in charge of arrangements.
Sign the guest book at wilsonsfuneralhome.net.
Published in The Southern Illinoisan on Feb. 12, 2014