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Vernon Matthews was born March 26, 1920, in rural Flora, Mississippi, to sharecroppers, and passed April 7, 2013, at the Dell Rapids Nursing and Rehab Center. He was the fourth of six children. He survived the Great Flood of 1927 and malaria, and he was always amazed that he lived to be 93, the last surviving family member of his generation. His family moved to Southern California in 1936 during the Depression, where he picked grapes and other fruits and vegetables for ten cents an hour to help support the family. At 20, he went to work for Carnation Milk Co., and was the first person to win the initial war bond given by the company for increased sales on his route.
At 21, Vernon was drafted into the Army and stationed in Sioux Falls, SD, as an MP at the base during WWII. Always an extrovert, he made many life-long friends, the most important was his eventual wife, Signa (Sue) Jakobsen. They married in 1945 and finished out Vernon's Army career in Fort Benning, GA. They moved back to Southern California where they awaited the birth of their son, Wayne.
Vernon and Sue moved back to South Dakota to farm with Sue's father, Knute, near Hudson in 1947. Their family grew as they added daughters Glenda Tesmer of Springbrook, WI, and Nola Connor of Colton, SD. By 1956, it was apparent the farm economy would not support their family, so they packed everything up and moved to northern California where Vernon became a police officer with the University of California, working at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory nuclear development facility. After getting the kids through college, Vernon felt the pull of the land and retired from the police department at 55 to return to farming his beloved Beaver Bend Ranch near Hudson. At his retirement party, he took the microphone and told jokes for almost an hour. That was Dad!
Vernon farmed from 1975 until 2002, but he continued to raise his famous and elaborate garden each year. He took great pride in sharing the fruits and vegetables of his labor with the local nursing home and a multitude of friends and neighbors. His beloved wife passed away in 1988. He moved to Orchard Hills Congregate Living Center in Dell Rapids in 2009 and to Dells Nursing and Rehab Center in March of this year. He never lost his Mississippi drawl, which always brought comments from those he met. Vernon is survived by his three children, four grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Private family services will be held. Memorials should be directed to the
. Condolences may be sent to 46481 246th St, Colton, SD 57018.
Published in The Argus Leader on Apr. 10, 2013