Vernon W. Carlson


October 5, 1921 - February 28, 2010

Vernon W. Carlson, 88, of Walla Walla, passed away February 28, 2010, at his home with his family by his side.

Vernon received the gift of life on October 5, 1921, in Wheaton, Minnesota from Axel Gottfried and Mae V. Carlson. The eldest of 5 children, Vernon had the pleasure of growing up with four younger sisters.

Vernon's father Axel, who emigrated from Sweden in 1906, brought with him the old-fashioned farming techniques. Thus, young Vernon grew up with and worked with "highly spirited" work-horses. He started doing field work with these horses by the tender age of 10. This developed into a life-long love of horses with a special passion in particular for the Clydesdale breed.

Later, Vernon's father acquired a tractor, which his son became adept at operating and maintaining. Exceptionally mechanically inclined, Vernon kept all the farm equipment and machinery in good running
condition. We're sure he even delighted in helping the neighbors if need be.

Farm work came before anything else, including school, thus he ended up with an enduring self education evolved from the careful study of equipment manuals and a passion for life-long learning. Up until his recent passing, Vernon was still reading in one of his favorite books, "Steam-Plant Operation" by Woodruff Lammers. One could often find him in his favorite brown leather chair facing the bookcase thumbing through his beloved books on subjects as diverse as barns, gas engines, antique cars and restoring and using old lawn mowers.

On February 23, 1949, Vernon married Genevieve Norma Kracht, a legal secretary and honor student, at "The Little Brown Church in the Vale" in Nashua, Iowa. It was 10 in Wheaton. At age 27, an ambitious, adventurous Vernon headed west to raise a family with his wife Genevieve, a devoted mother. Together they raised 1 son and 3 daughters.

His self-taught mechanical skills and expertise guided him into a job as plant engineer for St. Mary Medical Center, where he spent 21 1/2 years, most of them as chief engineer. He missed only 1/2 day of work during
his entire tenure there. A rather colorful character, this is where he earned the nickname, "Swede."

In 1980 Carlson developed a paper on "Boiler and Water Consideration". Due to wide acceptance of this paper, Vernon was selected to serve on the Industrial Maintenance Technology Advisory Committee at Walla Walla Community College where he helped to select curriculum for students studying boiler plant technology.

A combination of good health, a deeply entrenched work ethic, and a need to serve kept Carlson going after his retirement from St. Mary Medical Center.

Since 1987, he worked as a permanent, "intermittent" boiler plant employee at the Veterans Administration Medical Center. His official retirement from the VA was May 31, 2009 at age 87.

For several years Vernon acted as a tour guide and assisted with general maintenance and operations at Fort Walla Walla Museum. He and his wife, Genevieve, truly enjoyed their volunteer work there.

A "gentleman farmer", Vernon spent many summers doing custom hay baling in the Walla Walla Valley.

At the age of 80, Vernon was named the 2001 Outstanding Older Worker for Washington State. To earn this award he met strict criteria, including 20 hours per week in paid employment.

A Vernon W. Carlson Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Energy Systems Technology Dept. is being set up through the Walla Walla Community College. This fund will truly honor his belief to learn, learn and
then share your knowledge. Due to his strong work ethic and lifelong love of learning he was able to make valuable contributions to his community throughout his entire life.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Genevieve; his 4 children and their spouses, Gary V. Carlson, Bonnie and Jeff Baker, Joanne Horton, Debbra S. and Roland Cantu; his 3 grandchildren, David Baker, William E. Horton IV, and Heather J. Horton. He is also survived by 3 sisters, Darlene Johnson, Mavis Lichtsinn, and Frances Deal.

He was preceded in death by his parents and beloved sister, Elsie Leininger.

Friends and family are invited to attend a "Celebration of Life" memorial service for Vernon to be announced at a later date. Private family interment. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the Vernon W. Carlson Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Walla Walla Community College Foundation, 500 Tausick Way, Walla Walla, Wash, 99362. Friends may write memories and sign the online guestbook at


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