JOHN, Vernon

Obit Vernon

On June 6, 1948, in Tali, Yunnan, China, Vernon John was born to Norman and Evelyn Charter, missionaries under the China Inland Mission. Vernon spent his first 3 years in war-torn China, and retained many memories of that time, such as being hoisted onto a military truck by passing soldiers. Providentially, 5-year-old sister Ruthie ran shouting at the soldiers in Chinese to put her terrified brother down, and they obeyed. Fear gripped Vernon even after the Charters settled in Three Hills, when the sight of PE students exercising on the playing field awakened memories of military drills near their house in China. When the presence of missionaries endangered Chinese Christians, the long exodus from the country began. In March 1951, on top of a truck loaded with oranges, the Charter family, now including 1-year-old Miriam, began the first leg of their journey on the Burma Road. Via WWII plane, boat, road and train, they finally reached free Hong Kong in May, then on to London, finally landing at Halifax Harbour in July. The family settled in Three Hills in August, where both Norman and Evelyn had attended Prairie. Both parents began teaching at Prairie, Norman in the English Dept. and Evelyn in the Music Dept. The births of Mona and triplets Larry, Pat and Ian completed the family. Together they read the Bible daily, prayed faithfully for missionary friends and sang hymns, the words of which they still treasure. When he was about four, Vernon prayed to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness from sin and for new life, which set his course to always follow Jesus. Because Norman suffered strokes, he lost the ability to connect well with his family, which was such a loss for them all. Music was important in their household and all the children took piano. Music was also significant throughout Prairie’s school system, fostering Vernon’s growing love for it. It was in choir that Vernon first noticed June Frickel, a new student from Nebraska. They both graduated in 1969 and married in August 1971. Vernon joined Prairie Faculty in 1986, and completed a Master of Music in 1988 from the University of Alberta. He loved teaching, expanding students’ understanding of and delight in music, both in and outside of the classroom. His course on “Theology and Practice of Worship” was close to his heart, and ethnomusicology—the study of music and culture—became a joy to teach as well. He took a group of students to Africa to encourage believers there to express worship to God in music of their own culture, and also co-produced 2 CDs of Celtic worship songs with students on vocals. In 1992 he published a book of hymn arrangements for keyboard. Vernon earned his Doctorate degree in 2011 from the Institute for Worship Studies in Florida. It was an engaging time of study that greatly enriched his life, his teaching and his church and community ministry. Vernon officially retired in 2013, but remained active at the college as Professor Emeritus. Additionally, he formed even more friendships in the community, and enjoyed fishing trips with his brothers and other like-minded friends. He loved the people of God, and serving in church and community musically and in other ways. Vernon is deeply missed by his loving wife June, sisters Ruth Charter, Miriam Charter and Pat (Jon) Hines; brothers Larry (Pixie) Charter and Ian (Colleen) Charter; sister- and brother-in-law Kathy and Terry Lyon; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. He is pre-deceased by his parents Norman and Evelyn Charter, sister Mona Hines, 3 infant siblings in China, and parents-in-law Henry and Jennie Frickel.