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The Rev. Dr. Joseph Henry Johnson Vernon

February 13, 1935 - March 5, 2019

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The Rev. Dr. Joseph Henry Johnson “John” Vernon, 84, of Lynchburg, passed from this life to Heaven, on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.  He was born in Santa Fe, N.M., on February 13, 1935, to Agnes Johnson Vernon and Joseph Boyce Vernon. His family lived in Pawnee, Okla., and Rosebud, S.D., before moving to Lexington, Va., where John graduated from Lexington High School (1952).  John attended Washington & Lee University for one year before transferring to Davidson College to pursue degrees in Religion and Psychology.  While at Davidson, he was a member of Pi Kappa Phi and played trombone in the College and Concert Band.  He received a B.A. from Davidson College (1956), and was awarded both a Master of Divinity (1959) and Doctor of Ministry (1974) degrees from Union Theological Seminary.  He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister on July 12, 1959.

In 1953, while at Lexington’s McCrumb’s Drugstore, John noticed “the prettiest girl he had ever seen.” That pretty girl was Edith Shoffner, and they were married March 17, 1957.  During their almost 62 years of marriage, John had pastorates at Bullock Creek and Salem Presbyterian Churches, Sharon and Gaffney, S.C., St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., Commonwealth Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, N.C., First Presbyterian Church, Belmont, N.C., and at First Presbyterian Church, Staunton, Va., where he was elected Pastor Emeritus upon retirement.  He considered it a high privilege to serve as an ordained minister for 36 years, and continued to remember members from all his congregations in his prayers.  In 2003, John and Edith moved to The Summit Retirement Community, where he resided until his death. Ecumenical at heart, Presbyterian by choice, he rejoiced in being invited to preach in churches of other denominations, as well as accepting preaching invitations at over 32 Presbyterian churches in Virginia after his “official retirement.”

John was predeceased by his parents, and his two older sisters, Agnes Vernon Huffman of New Castle, Va., and JoAnne Vernon Johnson Vonnahme of Middletown, Ky.  He is survived by his beloved wife, Edith; and his three children, James “Jim” Johnson Vernon (Martha) of Forest, Va., Sue Vernon White (Richard) of Greencastle, Ind., and Mary Ellen Vernon of Greenville, S.C. Additionally, he is survived by his 13 precious grandchildren, Timothy (Heather), Hannah, Elizabeth (Alex Johansson), Stephen, Elijah, and Lydia Vernon, Matthew, Melody, Allison, Rose, and Michael White, and Langley and James Hoyt.

John and Edith enjoyed going on cruises together, and visiting their children and grandchildren.  John was active in the Presbytery and community of wherever he and Edith lived.  He served as Moderator of the Shenandoah Presbytery and chairman of various presbytery committees; member of the Mary Baldwin College Advisory Board of Visitors; President of the Staunton Augusta Church Relief Association; member of the Staunton August County Ministerial Association; and volunteered with Meals on Wheels and tutored at the Elementary School. He enjoyed listening to opera, watching Davidson College and ACC basketball, and photography.  In addition to being known for “preaching without notes”, John will be remembered for his optimism, positive personality, desire and ability to greet people by their name, and faith in Christ that “enriched the whole of life and assured me of eternal life in Christ Jesus my Lord.”

A Service of Witness to the Resurrection will be held at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Lynchburg, on Saturday, March 9, 2019, at 3 p.m. with the Rev. Dr. Jim Johns officiating, assisted by the Rev. Nathan Brooks.  The family will receive friends on Friday, March 8, 2019, from 6 until 7:30 p.m. at Tharp Funeral home in Lynchburg.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made to: The Summit Benevolent Fund, 1400 Enterprise Dr., Lynchburg, VA 24502, in appreciation for their wonderful service.

Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family.

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