Vernon Louis Mai, the son of Charley and Nathalia “Dolly” (Bender) Mai, was born November 3, 1926, on the family farm southeast of Russell, Kansas. He departed this life on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, at Mary Lanning Hospital in Hastings, Nebraska at the age of 92 years 8 months and 21 days
Vernon attended a one-room country schoolhouse through the eighth grade. The son of German immigrants, he had to learn English as his second language. When he wasn’t in school, he was helping his dad on the farm. Years later, with the country in the middle of WWII, Vernon’s number was selected in the draft. He was all set to enlist and go off to war when his father suddenly suffered a stroke, so the United States Army issued him a farm deferment. The oldest of three siblings, they depended on Vernon to support the family.
At the age of 19, he met and fell in love with Margie Helen (Wilson). With her mother as a witness, they married April 15, 1946, at the Salina, Kansas courthouse. They made their home south of Russell, Kansas on a farm. Born to this union were three children, Jack, Dana, and Joe.
They raised wheat, milo, alfalfa, dairy cattle, chickens, and hogs on the farm. During the winters, when he wasn’t busy with farming, Vernon worked several odd jobs to make ends meet. His father-in-law, Dan Wilson, taught him how to wrench on cars at Dolechek Motors. One winter he even drove a panelwagon truck hauling dirty diapers for a laundry service company. Besides farming, he worked for an oil field unit as a pipe runner. As a master torch welder, he built a snowplow from scratch and was hired to plow open the lease roads in the winter. Later, he even sold oil and lubricants door to door.
In 1959, they moved from Russell to a farm north of Lebanon, Kansas, where they had indoor plumbing for the first time. For several years they ran a custom harvesting crew from Texas to North Dakota making many lifelong friends along the way. In 1974, Vernon built Margie her dream home. They moved in the following year and lived there until 1987 when they retired, sold the farm, and moved to Lebanon.
They purchased a fifth-wheel camper and pulled it out to Almont, Colorado, just down the road from where they honeymooned in 1946. They breathed in the mountain air every year from June until the first snowfall as camp hosts at Three Rivers. Vernon, a self-taught fly tier since 1950, sold his flies to sporting goods stores all over Colorado. A master fly fisherman, he worked as a fishing guide and instructor. He was even an umpire for the Super Fly Fishing Tournament along the Taylor River. They spent their winters in the tip of Texas at a golf resort where Vernon was the course marshal. They enjoyed this lifestyle until it was physically too much for them.
In 2008, they sold their home in Lebanon and moved to Red Cloud to sit and enjoy life at a slower pace. Vernon moved to Heritage of Red Cloud nursing home in 2014 to be closer to Margie. He also resided at Good Sam and The Kensington assisted living homes in Hastings, Nebraska for a couple of years before returning to Red Cloud.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Dora Lee Steinert, and his brother Harold Mai.
Left to cherish his memory are son Jack Mai of Lebanon, KS, daughter Dana and husband Dave Reicks of Hastings, NE, son Joe Mai and wife Kim of Red Cloud, NE, 9 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, other relatives and a host of friends. The family would like to extend their deepest gratitude to the staff of AseraCare Hospice, Heritage Home of Red Cloud, and Mary Lanning Hospital for their wonderful care and compassion. Memorials are suggested to the Vernon Mai Memorial Fund in the care of the funeral home.
Funeral services were Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., July 30, 2019 at the First United Methodist Church in Red Cloud with the Rev. Warren Schoming officiating. Interment was at the Red Cloud Cemetery.
Williams Funeral Home
241 West 4th Avenue
Red Cloud, Nebraska 68970
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