Sept. 27, 1928-Dec. 21, 2018
Vernon Jordan was born in Brinkley, Ark., Sept. 27, 1928, the first child of Sallie Montgomery Jordan and J.V. Jordan. He was a shining light in the midst of the Great Depression, but times were hard for his parents and when his father lost his job, the family moved to Robeline where they lived on his grandparent’s farm. Vernon’s three sisters were born during this time and the children made happy memories playing hop scotch, jump rope, Monopoly and card games. Following the Depression, his father was hired by Southern Pacific Rail Road, requiring the family to move to Edgard, La.
That was a happy time, as the children loved living across the road from the Mississippi River and enjoyed walking to school along the levee. Vernon remembers his high school years as a turning point in his life because one of his teachers understood his passion for writing and theatre and encouraged him to write and direct several plays.
Shortly after Vernon graduated from high school, the family moved back to Natchitoches where Vernon graduated from Northwestern College, then earned his Master’s Degree in Library Science from Louisiana State University.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served from 1951-53 in Fort Lenard Wood, Mo., in the special services division along with a six-month assignment in Germany. Vernon’s love for theatre deepened during this time as he started attending plays with some of his army friends.
Upon return to civilian life, Vernon worked at McNeese State University for one year and then obtained a position with the Brooklyn Public Library in New York, a career that he loved so much he continued there until retirement.
Living in New York gave Vernon the opportunity to pursue his favorite pastimes, attending theatre and ballet performances and visiting museums, especially the Metropolitan Museum which was his favorite. He also loved to travel. Several years after he moved to New York, Vernon took a year’s leave of absence from his job to move to Germany with a couple of friends to pursue acting and writing careers. While there, he traveled around Europe, touring Italy, Spain and France, but he still found time to write a play that was produced briefly when he returned to New York. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the big success he would have liked, but it gave him the initiative to continue to write. He lived frugally and retired young to become involved in a small theatre group that wrote some plays that were produced off and off, off Broadway. In Vernon’s words, his pursuit as a playwright was “discouraging, but encouraging enough to go on.”
Although he lived a long way from his family, Vernon stayed close by visiting for two weeks each summer. After his parents passed away, he and his three sisters spent part of his two-week vacations each year traveling together. Their destinations included Napa Valley, Philadelphia and the Amish Country, Niagara Falls and Victoria, Canada. Vernon proved his bravery on these trips by standing up to all three of them when they wanted to do too much shopping. But even the times they spent lost, which were frequent since there that was before the GPS, were fun for all four of them because they laughed so much that the wrong turns became some of their best memories.
Since he had no family in New York, Vernon was blessed to spend holidays and celebrations with lots of friends. His sisters worried about his being alone at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it was without cause. Vernon lived the New York “life in the fast lane” with lots of shows and dinners at friends’ homes where he was always welcome. The most often heard comment regarding Vernon from friends, dry cleaners, nurses, doctors and caregiver regarding Vernon was, “He is the nicest man. He always has a kind smile on his face, and he is the perfect gentleman.”
Vernon lived in the same apartment in New York City for 40 years prior to moving to Five Star Premier Residence in Yonkers, N.Y., in 2013.
He passed away at Calvary Hospital in Bronx, N.Y., Dec. 21, 2018.
He s survived by his sister, Fay Robinson; two nieces; four nephews; and his long-time friends, Ron Bowers, Sam Staggs and Charles Smith.
He is pre-deceased by his parents, Sallie and J.V. Jordan; and sisters, Wanda Hoffpauir and Juanita Chamberlain.
The things in his life that he is most proud of are, “the things that I wanted to do to use my talents.” Vernon lived a happy and giving life, enjoying his cultural pursuits with friends, remaining close to his family and continuously pursuing outlets to share his talents.
A graveside service to honor his life will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 29 at Memory Lawn Cemetery in Natchitoches.