In Memory of




Obituary for William Ronald Vernon

William “Bill” Ronald Vernon, 89, of Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, died peacefully in a nursing care facility under Four Seasons Hospice care, in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and was called Home to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, on March 6, 2023. He was born on July 29, 1933, in Denver, Colorado, to Mary Katherine (McFarland) and Ronald Rodney Vernon. He was pre-deceased by his parents, aunts, uncles, and many cousins and friends.
Bill was raised in California before moving with his mother to New York, where he graduated from high school. He then attended and graduated from Saint Francis College in Loretto, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in English, minoring in history and education. He continued his studies at Pennsylvania State University, earning a Master of Arts in English Literature. He served in the U.S. Army from 1957 to 1963, when he was honorably discharged.
Bill married the love of his life, Shirley Ann Ryan, on December 28, 1957, at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Patton, Pennsylvania. They eventually moved to New York State, where Bill taught English and Shirley worked as a Registered Nurse, and they were blessed with four children: Kathryn, William, Suzanne and Deborah. Bill taught English for over 25 years at White Plains Middle School in New York, and for many years at Westchester County Penitentiary correctional facility in Valhalla, New York. He also served on the town board in Patterson, New York. In 1988, following his early retirement, Bill and Shirley moved to Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, where Shirley continued to work as a Registered Nurse in Hendersonville until her retirement in 2010. Bill was Director of Music at Saint Lawrence Basilica in Asheville for several years, where he developed a choir for Gregorian chant. His passions included opera (singing and listening), classical music, Gregorian chant, history and literature and golf. He also enjoyed going to a local indoor sportsmen’s range to do target shooting, hearkening to his love for the Wild West and cowboy traditions. Indeed, he grew up listening to the likes of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry during the “golden age” of radio, and often talked fondly of being born out West, cowboys and riding horses and fancied himself as a bit of cowboy at heart. Indeed, he might have loved those old cowboy songs as a child, but then he got serious as in Luciano Pavarotti serious. Being a bass vocally, he admired such greats as Ezio Pinza and Nicolai Ghiaurov, and sang in local community opera productions in New York with Shirley. He built a prolific collection of opera and classical recordings. Neighbors would often hear music in the Vernon household, as Bill sang bass, and his beloved wife, a gifted pianist, sang coloratura soprano – together, they shared beautiful music in a home with their children, grandchildren and even a great-grandchild. This love of music stayed with Bill until his last day with us here on earth, when he was heard singing and humming music in the moments just before our Lord, by His grace, called him Home to Heaven.
Bill was a devout Roman Catholic Christian who stayed close to our Lord Jesus Christ through daily prayer, His Church, Word and Sacraments. He was a member of Saint Barnabas Catholic Parish in Arden, North Carolina. Two of his favorite liturgical feast days were December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was the day of his conversion as a grade-school student to the Roman Catholic Christian faith and his First Holy Communion (he was baptized in a Protestant church), and January 31, the Memorial of Saint John Bosco, priest and founder of the Salesians of Don Bosco (Society of Saint Francis de Sales), because Bill’s conversion and his mother’s conversion happened while he was attending the Salesians’ school in Bellflower, California.
He is survived by his wife, Shirley Ann (Ryan) Vernon and four children, Kathryn (Kenny) Bates of New Hampshire, Rev. William F. Vernon, Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, Suzanne (Kevin) Vienneau of Maryland, Deborah Vernon (Bryan) Murdock of North Carolina; four grandchildren, Noelle (Chris) Poppalardo, Jacqueline Bessette, Liam Vienneau, Conor Vienneau, and one great-granddaughter, Kayleigh Bessette (Poppalardo).
A private Mass of Christian Burial was offered on March 9, 2023, in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. Cremation has taken place. A public Mass of Christian Burial will be offered on August 5, 2023, at Saint Barnabas Catholic Parish, at 11 a.m., with visitation from 10-10:45 a.m. in church, and the Rite of Committal and burial to follow at Blue Ridge Gardens of Memory Cemetery, Catholic Section, in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Saint Barnabas Catholic Parish, Arden, North Carolina. Eternal rest grant unto William R. Vernon, O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
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Moody-Connolly Funeral Home and Crematory is caring for the family.