The spirit of the United States Navy called Quartermaster Second Class Vernon James Kolen to sail eternal seas on March 17, 2013.
Vern was born in Oklahoma City, Okla,. on Nov. 3, 1922, and spent his early years in Marshfield (Coos Bay).
He graduated from Marshfield High School in 1941. Vern attended Southern Oregon College where he played center on the basketball team, but his education was interrupted by World War II.
He enlisted in the Navy and was called to active duty in 1943, served aboard the USS LCS (L) 35 and participated in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He witnessed the American flag flying on Mount Suribachi and kamikaze attacks on American ships. During a three-day typhoon that struck the LCS(L) 35, Vern was one of only two crew members who avoided seasickness.
After the war he returned to the Southern Oregon Coast where he met a delightful young lady named Anna May Chabot, and made her his wife in 1948. The young couple was blessed with seven children in 10 years. Vern formed the Kolen-Huggins Insurance Agency, which he and Anna May operated for 25 years. Vern always made time for community activities: as a charter member and president of the Gold Beach Rotary Club, as a founder of the Gold Beach High School Quarterback Club, as a board member for 48 years of Coos Curry Electric Co-op Inc., as one of the leaders in the construction of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic church, and as a 48-year board member of Federated Insurance Companies.
Vern always found time for fun: He was an adequate fisherman, but an extraordinary clam digger, never failing to dig a "Kolen" limit. His duplicate bridge skills were superb, but he was often saddled with inferior partners. However, the greatest joy of his life was spending time with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In later years he enjoyed trips with his children to Holland, Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii.
After Anna May died in 2003, he moved to Klamath Falls to live with his daughter Yvette Molatore, her saintly husband Jerry, and her dog Madison.
He is survived by his children Mary Ann Kolen, Yvonne King (husband David), Yvette Molatore (husband Jerry), Kristine Olson (husband Gene), Karen Kolen, Jim Kolen (wife Renee'), and Alice Haggerty. Also surviving are 17 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and by his longtime friend Ken Huff, the skipper of LS (L) 35.
Vern was preceded in death by his wife Anna May; and by Bill Huggins, his best friend of 80 years.
The family extends great appreciation for the care and concern of Dr. Glenn Gailis and the crew of Oasis Care Home in Klamath Falls.
The family requests no flowers, and suggests memorial contributions to the Gold Beach Rotary Club for college scholarships, P.O. Box 1289, Gold Beach, Oregon 97444 or Curry Health Foundation, P.O. Box 1274, Gold Beach, OR 97444.
A service will be at 2:15 p.m. today, (March 23), at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 94323 Gauntlett St., Gold Beach.
All of Vern's family and friends are invited to a celebration of his life at 4:30 p.m. today (March 23) at Indian Creek Resort, 94860 Jerry's Flat Road, Gold Beach.
Condolences may be expressed online at www.redwoodmemorial.net.
Submitted by Redwood Memorial Chapel.