The spirit of United States Navy called quartermaster second class Vernon James Kolen to sail eternal seas March 17, 2013.
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Vern was born in Oklahoma City, Okla., Nov. 3, 1922, spent his early years in Marshfield (Coos Bay) and graduated from Marshfield High School in 1941. He attended Southern Oregon College, where he played center on the basketball team, but his education was interrupted by World War II. He enlisted in the Navy and was called to active duty in 1943, served aboard the USS LCS (L) 35 and participated in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He witnessed the American flag flying on Mount Suribachi and kamikaze attacks on American ships. During a three-day typhoon that struck the LCS(L) 35, Vern was one of only two crew members who avoided seasickness.
After the war, he returned to the Southern Oregon Coast, where he met a delightful young lady named Anna May Chabot and made her his wife in 1948. The young couple was blessed with seven children in 10 years.
Vern formed the Kolen-Huggins Insurance Agency, which he and Anna May operated for 25 years. He always made time for community activities as a charter member and president of the Gold Beach Rotary Club, as a founder of the Gold Beach High School Quarterback Club, as a board member for 48 years of Coos Curry Electric Co-op, as one of the leaders in the construction of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, and 48 years on the board of Federated Insurance Companies.
Vern always found time for fun; he was an adequate fisherman, but an extraordinary clam digger, never failing to dig a "Kolen" limit. His duplicate bridge skills were superb, but he was often saddled with inferior partners. However, the greatest joy of his life was spending time with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In later years, he enjoyed trips with his children to Holland, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Hawaii.
After Anna May died in 2003, he moved to Klamath Falls to live with his daughter Yvette Molatore, her saintly husband Jerry, and her dog Madison.
Vern was preceded in death by his wife Anna May and by Bill Huggins, his best friend of 80 years.
He is survived by his children Mary Ann Kolen, Yvonne King (husband David), Yvette Molatore (husband Jerry), Kristine Olson (husband Gene), Karen Kolen, Jim Kolen (wife Renee), and Alice Haggerty; 17 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and his longtime friend Ken Huff, the skipper of LCS (L) 35.
The family extends great appreciation for the care and concern of Dr. Glenn Gailis and the crew of Oasis Care Home in Klamath Falls.
Services will be at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Gold Beach at 2:15 p.m. Saturday.
The family requests no flowers and suggests memorial contributions to Gold Beach Rotary Club for college scholarships, P.O. Box 1289, Gold Beach, OR 97444, or Klamath Hospice, 4745 S. Sixth St., Klamath Falls, OR 97603.
Published in Herald And News on Mar. 21, 2013