Vern Earl McConnell passed away peacefully in his sleep in Fairbanks on Aug. 16, 2014. |
Vern was born in Antlers, Oklahoma, on Dec. 9, 1921, to William H. McConnell and Essie Harville McConnell. The family moved to Mountain View, Missouri, where they owned and worked their farm.
After high school, Vern began his working career by following the harvests by hitchhiking or "riding the rails" from Missouri to the wheat fields in Kansas and the potato harvest in Idaho.
After the harvest, he went to Eureka, California, to visit his mother and two half-brothers.
He enlisted in the Army on June 27, 1942, and served in Europe during the Rhineland and European campaigns, achieving the rank of sergeant and being awarded two bronze stars.
He received his honorable discharge on Feb. 1, 1946.
After his discharge from the Army, he spent a short time working for logging mills in California and fighting forest fires in Idaho before coming to Fairbanks in 1947, where he later met Mary "Mollie" Fotheringham. They were married Oct. 29, 1949.
He worked out of Operating Engineers Local 302 on construction around Fairbanks and on Ladd Army Airfield during the early 1950s, excavating the utilidors in the new Brigade Area utility expansion project and the excavation of the foundation on the Central Heat & Power Plant expansion in 1952 and later operating the cranes to raise the steel framework on the new power plant structure.
In the mid 1950s, he worked at Point Lay during the construction of the new distant early warning radar system known as the DEW Line before returning home to Fairbanks. He began working for Civil Service in 1959.
In 1967, as the supervisor of the Fort Wainwright Tank Farm, his responsibilities for overseeing fuel transfer operations through the Haines pipeline to Eielson and Fort Wainwright were challenged by the flood of the Chena River in Fairbanks.
He and his wife and daughter were returning from a summer trip to the states to buy a new car when they reached Delta Junction, where the Army would send a helicopter to bring him to Fort Wainwright and oversee the recovery and start-up operation of the Army fueling system, for which he received the Meritorious Civilian Service Medal.
He retired from Civil Service in 1981 to begin construction of his and Mollie's retirement dream home on the banks of the Chena River in Fairbanks. His dedication to work, his family, and friendships that lasted through the years inspired all who knew him.
His love of the outdoors was legendary among his friends and family. The early spring fishing trips to Cook Inlet and later to Valdez before September moose hunts were as sure as the snow that came in winter. Sometimes fishing was not so good and moose were hard to find, but the stories and friendships were always the best of it all and spirits were always high.
He was a member in the Masonic Lodge, Tanana Lodge No. 3 F&AM; Good Sam Club, Tundra Rollers Chapter; the Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo No. 4. He was one of the first residents of the Raven's Landing Senior Center, where he found new opportunities to offer his help and experience with gardening or cribbage games.
He was preceded in death by his parents, William H. and Essie Harville McConnell; wife, Mary "Mollie" Fotheringham McConnell; brother, Virgil "Mack" McConnell; half-brothers, Robert and Cecil Randall; sister, Edna McConnell; adopted son, Brian Kendall; sister-in-law Margaret Kendall Dirkx, husband and dear friend, John Dirkx; and brother-in-law Clyde Kendall.
He is survived by his daughter, Linda McConnell Davenport, and her husband, Charles of Fairbanks; granddaughter, AnneMarie Landes Sanford (and Herschell Frantz); great-grandchildren, Brayden Sanford and Olen Frantz of Wasilla, Alaska; grandson, Brian Davenport and wife Maleaha of Lacey Wash.; sister-in-law Jane Cluck McConnell of Swansea, Illinois; nephews, Alan Kendall of California, Dennis (Kathleen "Sister" Carlo) Kendall of Fairbanks, Gary (Katy Brown) Kendall of Fairbanks; dear friend, Barbra Clark of Fairbanks and many great and great-great nieces and nephews.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 26 at Northern Lights Cemetery and Chapel, 2318 Yankovich Road, with a Celebration of Life following at the Raven's Landing Senior Center banquet room, 1222 Cowles St. Fairbanks.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Harry and Sally Porter Heart Center, FMH Cancer Center or Raven's Landing Senior Center.
Please visit www.legacy.com/obituaries/newsminer to sign an online guest book.
Published in Daily News-Miner from Aug. 20 to Aug. 24, 2014