FAIRBURY – The Jefferson County Commissioners kicked off their weekly meeting Tuesday morning by honoring Vernon B. Johnson as the Jefferson County “Veteran of the Month” for May.
Originally from Oakland, NE, Johnson took a correspondence course in electricity from a school in Chicago – all while working on the family farm.
With the U.S. already involved in World War II, Vernon enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Mar. 11, 1942. He reported to the United States Naval Training School in San Diego three weeks later.
Following basic training, Vernon began instruction on June 4, 1942 at Iowa State University in Ames, IA. He graduated from there with the first class of the U.S. Navy’s Electrical Training School on Sept. 25, 1942.
Vernon returned to San Diego and completed Gyro Compass School at the Naval Training Station. He was stationed there until Feb. 18, 1943 when he boarded the U.S.S. Rixey and sailed to Pago Pago.
He then boarded the cargo ship U.S.S. Titania on March 16, 1944. During the next year, he served aboard ship in the South Pacific in locations like Guadalcanal, as well as Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand and the Fiji Islands.
Vernon participated in the Battle of Bougainville in November 1943. He also participated in the Marianas operation in July 1944 and the Leyte Landing in Oct. 1944.
He holds the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with a battle star for action at Leyte. At the end of his service in the Navy, Vernon reentered the U.S. through Seattle and received his honorable discharge on Oct. 18, 1945.
Vernon returned to his hometown of Oakland, and answered an ad for an electrician position at Stull Electric in Fairbury just a month later.
Vernon’s career as an electrician spanned over 50 years. He purchased Stull Electric in 1956 and established Johnson Electric.
Vernon is a member of the First Christian Church in Fairbury, serving as a deacon, elder and past chairman of the board.
He was a long time member of the Fairbury Lions Club, serving as a local president and district officer. Vernon is also a member of the Fairbury Elks Club and is a lifetime member of the VFW and American Legion.
Vernon and his late wife, Elaine, celebrated 72 years of marriage before her passing in 2013. He has three children – Gene, Jerry and Joan. He also has seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Vernon recently celebrated his 100th birthday with friends at Fairbury’s Senior Diners, Cedarwood and the First Christian Church.