EMPTY NEST - Curt Swarm

98-year-old veteran throws out first pitch at Bees game


On June 20, 98-year old Vern Dorothy of Mt. Pleasant, a World War II Navy Veteran, threw out the first pitch at a Burlington Bees baseball game.  The crowd, with more than polite applause, cheered wildly as the stadium sound system struck up “Anchors Aweigh.”  It's the third year in a row for Vern throwing out the first pitch at a Bees game. 
It all started four years ago when Mark Kimzey, of Kimzey Funeral Home in Mt. Pleasant, decided he'd rather do something different for his staff instead of the traditional Christmas party.  A long-time Bees fan, he thought, “Why not reserve the Hall-of-Fame Suite at the stadium and bring my staff over for a Bees game?  It beats the heck out of a Christmas party any day.”  
After a year or so of doing this, Bees' management asked Mark if he'd like to throw out the first pitch.  Mark declined but said that he knew someone who would be better suited for the honor.  He suggested Vern Dorothy.
Vern and his wife, Carolyn, were longtime, part-time staff at Kimzey Funeral Home.  Carolyn helped out at funerals as a visitation hostess, and Vern performed maintenance work.  In fact, Mark Kimzey credits Vern as the reason the funeral home is still standing.  Vern can repair anything. 
Vern comes by his maintenance abilities naturally.  In addition to working at the Dexter Company in Fairfield for 45 years, he and his wife Carolyn farmed for 48.  Farmers of that ilk were part mechanic, carpenter and general handyman. 
Growing up on the farm, Vern went to live with his father when he was 12.  He attended Taylor #2 Country School until the eighth grade, then transferred to Stockport for high school.  Vern walked to the country school, as did the teacher.  She lived close to the school so that she could walk.  There were no snow days in those days. 
Upon graduation from high school, Uncle Sam was waiting.  The Navy took Vern, and he was off to boot training in Idaho.  After boot camp, he was assigned to the USS Marshall, a Fletcher Class Destroyer based out of San Diego.  However, the war was winding down, and the Marshall sailed to New Orleans and Vern went to Guam.  After a leave for his grandmother's funeral, it was back to California and then Olathe, Kansas where he was discharged.  Vern and a friend hitchhiked across Missouri dragging their sea bags.  He eventually made his way to Fairfield. 
Vern knew a young lady in Birmingham.  He asked her for a date.  She said she already had one, but would tell the guy she was sick.  They went to a movie in Fairfield, and the first person they ran into was the other guy. 
Vern and Carolyn bought a farm, were married 74 years, and had two children, Joy and RV (Robert Vern).  Joy actually attended the same country school, Taylor #2, as did Vern.  Vern, and Carolyn's brother built a house for Vern and Carolyn at 300 N. Jackson St. in Mt. Pleasant, where they lived until moving into Arbor Court Retirement Home.   
Carolyn recently passed away on March 10.  In June they would have been married 75 years.  The staff at Arbor Court were going to have a ceremony where Carolyn and Vern renewed their wedding vows.  Vern was going to wear a tux.  Carolyn would have liked that.
Vern's dad lived to be 101, and Carolyn's dad also lived to 101.  Vern's goal is to catch'm and maybe surpass'm.
At the Bees' game, the players formed a tunnel with their arms, and Vern passed through it.  He thinks he'd like to throw out the first pitch at least one more year.
Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526 or email him a curtswarm@yahoo.com.  Curt is available for public speaking. 

Empty Nest, Curt Swarm, opinion, commentary, editorial, Pen City Current, author, Mt. Pleasant, Farm,


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