Ellen Lucille Vernon’s love for her country was strong and had deep roots.
She would in turn bestowed that gift of unconditional love, loyalty, and patriotism to the community and several generations of young girls.
Vernon died on Thursday, June 8, at the age of 89.
She was a US Air Force 1st Lt. flight nurse and a Korean War veteran.
To some Vernon's service may have seemed dangerous for a young woman in the 1940s and 1950s.
However, not to Vernon. She was doing what more than 30 members - spanning five generations - of her family did best.
Sacrifice, courage, humility and investing in others – all traits that characterized Vernon's life and the blueprint on how she raised her family.
“She loved her country and she was very proud of her military service,” said Rhonda Burleson McCarty.
Countless current and former Grove residents echoed that sentiment on social networking sites after hearing the news of Vernon's death.
While some veterans returned to civilian life after the Korean War, Vernon became involved with the Red Cross after her honorable discharge.
Her caring and nurturing mannerisms made her invaluable as the night duty charge nurse at Grove General Hospital where she would comfort a mother holding a sick child.
It later carried into her duties as the Director of Nursing at Grand Lake Manor, as she would reassure an adult son worried about an elderly parent.
Service through Girl Scouts
Not only did Vernon bind the wounds of the hurting and care for the elderly, but she also loved and cherished thousands of young Grove girls.
For 55 years, she led Grove girls through the Girl Scout ranks, teaching them life-long skills and cementing life-long friendships.
She was just one of three volunteers awarded the 50-year pin in the Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland, where Grove is a chapter.
The Missouri Heartland has more than 16,000 girls and covers 68 counties in northeast Oklahoma, central and southern Missouri and southeast Kansas.
Not only did Vernon help girls earn their badges, she earned quite a few badges herself, including the Thanks 1 and Thanks 2 pin, the highest honor in the organization.
When she was honored with a 50-year pin for her service to the group, she remarked she had sold “at least” a million Girl Scout cookies.
“Lucille was our cookie chair for years,” said Wilma Spears, Jay Troop 70448 leader. “She knew exactly how many cookies we checked out.
“One year I received a bill from the Joplin Girl Scout office saying that I owed $300 for cookies.”
Spears knew whom to call.
“Lucille said, ‘do not pay the $300, you owe nothing, I have all the records,’” Spears said. Vernon's meticulous record keeping stood the test. Spears cookie credit was corrected.
Spears said she loved visiting with Vernon and looking at her treasures.
“She gave me a copy of the last family cookbook and encouraged me to compile my families' recipes,” Spears said.
Vernon's involvement with Girl Scouts began in 1964 when she signed up as an assistant leader for the Grove Brownie troop, which included her oldest daughter Mary Ellen and 34 other girls.
One group of girls Vernon maybe has been partial to was the group that included her youngest daughter, Annetta Vernon Gallegos.
One of those girls grew up to be a neurosurgeon; several have their master's degrees, and are in the teaching or medical field.
To say she was proud of that group is an understatement.
Vernon taught the girls everything from tying knots to cooking and proper dining etiquette.
She also remembered milestones in the girls lives as they matured.
“She loved us just like her own and she'll be remembered as though she were ours,” said Lynne Halterman Duffield. “She helped us reach the First Class/Gold Award. We honor her by upholding and sharing the values she instilled.”
“She was a scout great leader and had the patience of Job with me/us,” said Lora Buzzard Siever, who received a baby blanket from her to celebrate the birth of her son.
“I lost a dear friend,” said Janet Brewer Shambles.
All three women were part of that exceptional group of girls.
“I spent many hours with her as a scout from second grade through twelfth grade,” Shambles said. “She encouraged a small group of us girls to stay in Girl Scouts as teenagers when it certainly wasn't considered the cool thing to do and even coached us to earn the highest honor in Girl Scouts.”
Some of those young Girl Scout would go on to fill Vernon's shoes.
“I became a leader for Girl Scouts because of her,” said Debbie Burt Deakins, a former scout who has also led Girl Scouts in Grove for many years. “She became one of my best friends as an adult,”
The two would drive to Joplin where they would load up on sewing, craft and scrapbook materials, Deakins said.
When the conversation would shift toward children, Vernon would reminisce about her youngest son, Rick, who died in a plane crash.
Deakins nominated Vernon as the Christmas parade grand marshal and drove her through the parade, an honor for Deakins.
“She loved watching the bald eagles nesting in her backyard and loved the pictures her son, Louis, would take to preserve those memories,” Deakins said. “I will always remember her as another mom I had and someone who I could share things with and never worry that I would be judged.
"So rarely do people truly exist like Lucille. I can't imagine a world without Lucille in it."