Vernon Luther Story was born November 9, 1940, in San Diego to pastor Vernon Gordon Story and his wife, Ella Grace Cowles. He grew up in Salem, Oregon, the third of six children. His siblings are Aletha Sheets, Rebecca Lewis, Kenneth Story, Carolyn Fowler and Dorothy Skinner.
Vernon grew up in Salem surrounded by cherry and apple trees, gardens and chickens. He loved milking the family's cow. He was an earnest student, played piano and trumpet, rode his bicycle to school with his brother, and had a fine baritone voice. He played basketball in high school.
Vernon married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Jean Bignell, in 1960 in Pasadena. Their daughter, Angela, was born in 1961, and son Kent in 1968.
While working his way through college and seminary, Vernon and Barbara served as house parents at LaVerne Boys' Home, and Vern worked nights at Shady Grove Dairy in Upland and Straight Door Factory in El Monte. Like his father, he enjoying doing house painting jobs on the side throughout his life.
Vernon was proud of his work for peace and civil rights. As a student in 1965, he traveled to Mississippi to help register African-Americans to vote and build a swimming pool for children who weren't allowed to use segregated city facilities.
Vernon graduated from Upland College in 1963 with a BA in sociology and English, and received his Doctor of Religion from Claremont School of Theology in 1969. He was ordained a United Methodist minister in 1967 and became a licensed marriage and family counselor in 1970. He earned his certification in clinical hypnosis in 1975.
While in seminary, he did a semester's work at Patton State Hospital. Learning to listen to mental patients with experiences he had never encountered was a transformative experience he never forgot.
He considered himself lucky to have been mentored by a series of compassionate men who saw his potential – including Mt. Hollywood Congregational Church pastor Dr. Allan S. Hunter, the first clergyman he had ever heard answer a question with "I don't know."¯Dr. Pierce Johnson, the first pastor under whom he worked, taught him the importance of sermons that posed questions instead of providing answers. Dr. Roderick Scott, a former missionary in Japan, urged Vern not to accept the status quo but to keep looking for truth, wherever he found it.
Vernon's earnestness and work ethic made people want to help him on his journey. When he graduated from seminary, instead of having the usual student debt, he found that his tuition had been paid anonymously.
During his 39 years as a United Methodist minister, he served at First United Methodist Church at Claremont; Calipatria Community Church and Magnolia United Methodist Church in Brawley; Santee United Methodist Church; First United Methodist Church of Safford, Arizona; Parker United Methodist Church in Kaneohe, Hawaii; Arlington United Methodist Church in Riverside; Commmunity United Methodist Church in Desert Hot Springs; and San Pedro First United Methodist Church. After leaving full-time ministry on disability for hearing loss in 2002, he served as interim pastor for St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
As a pastor, he was loved for his mellifluous voice, his special "Time for Children"¯mini-sermons for kids, his thoughtful and original sermons, and his personal, individualized way with weddings and funerals. He prioritized pastoral care with frequent, loving visits to the sick and shut in, to convalescent centers, hospitals and prisons.
Over the years, Vernon introduced hundreds of young people to sailing and canoeing through his youth boating program, Anchors Aweigh. In 2002, he received Toberman Settlement House's Builder of Youth Award for this effort.
Vernon retired in 2006 but continued as pastor of visitation doing home visits for Orangethorpe and enjoyed sharing his love of gardening and earthworms with kids at the Children's Center. In 2011, he was awarded the church's David Johnson Award for his visitation work.
Vernon was an enthusiastic Frisbee player and sailor who loved books, swimming, bicycling, hiking, Zen meditation and bird-watching. He was an avid reader who wrote constantly and enjoyed a wide correspondence. He took several sabbaticals camping alone at Lake Mead.
While his children were growing up, the family made numerous cross-country camping trips towing their tent trailer through 46 states. Vernon and Barbara eventually traveled to all 50 states and also made trips to Israel, Egypt, Germany, Austria, Holland, China, Puerto Rico and Mexico's Copper Canyon. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on a cruise to Alaska.
Vernon was active in the communities he served and had a broad range of interests. Here's just a sampling:
Vernon is survived by his devoted wife of 54 years, Barbara Story; daughter Angela Hagen (Jeff); son Vernon Kent Story (Erika); and granddaughter Prescott Williams. He is also survived by siblings Aletha (Jim) Sheets, Rebecca (H.A.) Lewis, Kenneth (Nancy) Story, Carolyn (David) Fowler and Dorothy (Breck) Skinner.