Vernon John Spencer, 86, of Greeley, Colorado, died October 17, 2021. He was born January 12, 1935 in Denver, Colorado to Vernon George and Ruth Louise (Bowen) Spencer. Vern spent his childhood in Aurora, Colorado, where he began taking piano lessons at a very young age and had mastered many of the classics by the age of ten.
Upon graduating from Aurora High School in 1952, Vern enlisted in the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. After receiving an honorable discharge, he joined the National Guard, was promoted to E4, and finished as Corporal.
Vern earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 1959, and thereafter began a dedicated and passionate career as a music educator at Pierce Elementary and Platte Valley Elementary schools, completing his master’s degree in 1967.
Vern’s masterful teaching techniques and uncanny ability to inspire children became evident when his orchestra, made up entirely of third through sixth-graders, became the first in Colorado history to compete at the state level. In 1984, Vern was named a finalist for the title of Colorado’s Teacher of the Year. In 2015, the State of Colorado General Assembly acknowledged Vern’s many contributions when it sent him a flag that had been flown over the capitol in his honor.
During his career as a music teacher, Vern also served as the assistant wrestling coach at Platte Valley High School. While coaching wrestling, Vern honed great personal athletic ability in several sports and began competing in a variety of athletic competitions.
Vern was a consistent and victorious competitor in the Rocky Mountain Senior Games, becoming one of only two athletes in the history of the Rocky Mountain Master’s Games to compete for 34 consecutive years. He was a champion decathlete, winning 198 State Master’s titles in eight track and field throwing events, 227 state Master’s titles in other events, including track and field, weight lifting, and wrestling, as well as a number of national and world records.
A devoted citizen of the beautiful state of Colorado, Vern composed and recorded a collection of songs called "Songs of Colorado” dedicated to the state he loved. Vern was a loving and loyal friend, mentor, son, father, grandfather, and most recently, great-grandfather. He was also a lover of animals, serving several communities and extending generosity to anyone in need. For his upstanding character and political charm, Vern had become known to many as Honorary Mayor of the mythical town of Vernsville.
In addition to his parents, Vern was preceded in death by his longtime companion, Elizabeth M. Schlagel. Vern is survived by son James P. Spencer and wife, Beth Bullock Spencer, daughter Susan K. Spencer, son William T. Spencer, former daughter-in-law Pamela D. Smith, grandson Zachary A. Smith, granddaughter Lauren A. Bonet Spencer, grandson-in-law David Bonet Montes, and great-granddaughter Ona D. Bonet Spencer.
A memorial service is being planned for the spring of 2022. Updates will be available at vernspencer.com.