Vernon Sellers Dennis Whitfield
March 20, 1950 – April 1, 2018
Vernon Sellers Dennis Whitfield was the most generous man you ever knew. He rescued you in the night, in the cold, he towed your car. He gave you a place to stay, he gave you money to tide you over, he gave you a car. He tipped liberally even when you hadn’t given him the best service. He believed in you. He trusted you. He didn’t give up on you. He gave you his friendship, he gave you his fight, he gave you his heart. He was so proud of you. His was a stubborn love.
On Easter Sunday 2018, Vernon’s outsized heart gave out in bed in his beloved childhood Jackson, Mississippi home in Belhaven. Vernon was the third of Benjamin Hatch and Lucy Sellers Whitfield’s four children, a beloved and willful brother and son. A proud graduate and number one hell-raiser of Sewanee Military Academy, Vernon swam the butterfly for Louisiana State University’s varsity team. Young Vernon loved fast cars, good shellfish, and spirited women. Old Vern was much the same.
Vernon hired on to the Union Pacific Railroad in 1978 and worked there faithfully for more than 35 years, serving first as a brakeman and then as a conductor, working the Rawlins to Green River pool in Wyoming, and later the long pool from Cheyenne to Green River. He always worked doggedly to improve working conditions, serving as chairman of his United Transportation Union local and on the state legislative board.
Here’s the thing about Vernon: he cared. He liked to do things properly, whether it was lawncare, car maintenance, or precision in language. He was dedicated to learning and freely shared his knowledge. And, no, he did not want to be interrupted because he wanted you to get it right. To do it proper. To keep you safe. To keep you well-fed. To have the right tool for the job. He also didn’t want to be rushed because most things are worth taking the time to do well, to do slowly.
Vernon laughed. You know the laugh. That throaty chuckle. He was jolly. A gentle giant with the spark of mischief in his eye.
Vernon hoped. Heaven knows you have to be hopeful to do as much work as he did for the Carbon County Democratic Party and State Democratic Party in Wyoming. He didn’t give up on cars, appliances, or people. He believed this time would be better, that you could turn your life around, that this loan would be the one that changed your life. He always had some scheme to make a little extra money to better take care of his family.
Because above all else, Vernon loved. He loved his three children Nicolle, Stephanie, and Bryan so much. He was so proud of them. He loved grandchildren Anna-Sophia, Anastasia, and Angelo and his granddog Xylo. He loved his son-in-law William. He loved his sister Johnnie-Marie and brothers Ben and Robert. He loved his sister-in-law Mary-Pat and brother-in-law Jim. He loved his nieces and nephews: Ben, John, Carolina, Simpson, and me. He loved his cousins (first, second, and all kinds of removed) on both the Whitfield and Sellers sides. He loved you.
So now you, like us, have this 6’7” sized hole in your heart. What can you do when you miss Vernon? Vern? Wheels? Daddy? Here are some options, straight from Uncle Vernon:
1. Be more generous than you think wise. 2. Don’t be afraid to be a soft touch. 3. Don’t give up on people. Love stubbornly. 4. Hope. 5. Trust. 6. Work. 7. Laugh. 8. Learn things and share your knowledge. 9. Be a regular somewhere, and tip well when you go there. 10. Believe in democracy and work for it. 11. Chase the occasional rabbit. 12. Take care of his children Nicolle, Stephanie, and Bryan. Check in on them in 2 months, 6 months, a year, a decade. Write down stories about Vernon to share with them. Help them the way Vernon did.
Vernon Sellers Dennis Whitfield gave his heart in service to his family, his union brothers, his community, and his state. There couldn’t be a better tribute to his spirit than for you to do the same.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at Lakewood Funeral Home. Inurnment will follow at Lakewood Memorial Park.
- Memorial Service Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Vernon Sellers Dennis Whitfield
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April 17, 2018
To Vernon's family......
Every time I hear Jimmy Dean sing
" Big Bad John " I think of Vernon...that has happened many times in the 50 years since he and I were on the color guard team at Sewanee Military Academy . He was a gentle , resolute , and caring young man that always spoke of his family and how he could hardly wait for summer so he could go home .
I have always missed him , and now he has gone home again . I wish him safe travels in the Great Somewhere....
April 11, 2018
I was so sorry to hear about Vern's passing. I really liked him. I knew him from Martin's I'm sorry I can't make the memorial service, I have gotten "bogged" down at work.