Vernon D. Kirkeby, age 98, of Ortonville, MN, passed away on Saturday, January 1, 2022, at the Ortonville Area Hospital.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, January 8, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. at Zion Lutheran Church in Ortonville, MN. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service at the church on Saturday. Pastor Janet Tengbom Warnes will officiate, and interment will be at Eids Cemetery in Otrey Township of Big Stone County, MN.
The service will be livestreamed and recorded and will be available at the bottom of this page.
Vernon Duane Kirkeby was born at home in rural Flom, MN, on July 8, 1923. He was baptized and confirmed at Aspelund Lutheran Church in rural Flom, MN. He attended Woodland Nook Country School and graduated from Twin Valley High School in 1941. Following high school graduation, he attended Moorhead State Teachers College where he was active in choir, band, and drama. Vernon returned to the family farm and met Gladys Jacobson at a dance at the Flom Hall. Vernon and Gladys were married on June 26, 1948, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Ulen, MN. They lived on the family farm until 1957 when they moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area. Fairway View Catered Living in Ortonville was their final home. Gladys passed away on November 13, 2017, and life changed for Vernon; He learned to do some cooking, kept his apartment tidy, and did laundry; although these were tasks he had never had to do, he took them on with a “can-do” attitude and adjusted well.
Vernon spent his career with Northwestern Bell Telephone Company, rising through the ranks from selling Yellow Page ads to marketing and management. He was an outstanding salesman and had great people skills. His biggest accomplishment was designing and overseeing the installation of the entire phone system for St. Lukes Hospital (now, Sanford) in Fargo and for Moorhead State College (now, Minnesota State University Moorhead). His final position at Bell was interviewing people for management positions. He took early retirement in 1982, but wasn’t ready for life on the couch! Always having loved tinkering with cars and being with people, he got a part time job combining those two loves: driving cars through the auction ring for Tri State Auto Auction. His next position was driving courtesy car for Lunde Lincoln, Inc., in Fargo. Again, the perfect job as he could drive and visit all day. Vernon was one of those people who never met a stranger; he was friendly to all and never forgot anyone he met. It seemed as if there was nothing Vernon couldn’t do, and do it well.
Singing tenor in the Flom Men’s Quartet was something Vernon enjoyed to the max. He was proud to tell the story of singing for former Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The quartet was at a singing engagement the night that their daughter, Sandra, was born. Gladys was in the audience in labor but didn’t want to bother him until the end of the performance; then she told him that they should probably leave right away.
Vernon and Gladys were both very active in their church community. He served on the church council, counted the money for many years, and sang in the choir for many years. Additionally, he was an active member of the Moorhead Lions Club and a RSVP volunteer.
Family was the most important thing in Vernon’s life. He loved his immediate and extended family fiercely and would do anything he could to help any of them. His greatest birthday present of all 98 years was when his only granddaughter, Sally, was born on his birthday: July 8. They celebrated many birthday parties together with hats and ice cream cake.
Vernon lived his life to the fullest and tried to find the best in every person and every situation. He never wanted to be a bother to anyone. In fact, the last week of his life he called Sandra one cold morning to see if she needed to go anywhere because his car was in a heated garage and he’d be happy to drive. On December 30, Larry and Sandra were playing cards with him at his apartment until quite late. As he walked us to the door, he said if he could go that night, it would be wonderful. New Year’s Eve day he was feeling so good, pain free and walking tall. New Year’s Day he suffered a heart attack and passed away very peacefully in the hospital. He got exactly what he was wishing for.
Vernon is survived by his daughter, Sandra and her husband, Larry Helgeson of Ortonville, MN; granddaughter, Sally and her husband, David Sterk of Fargo, ND; brother and sister-in-law, Darrell and Sharon Kirkeby of Bullhead City, AZ; and sister-in-law, Twyla Kirkeby of Glencoe, MN.
He was preceded in death by his siblings: Gilma (Orrin) Swenson, Milton (Esther) Kirkeby, Lloyd (Helen) Kirkeby, and Douglas Kirkeby; as well as Gladys’s siblings: Archie Jacobson, Henry (Leah and Mabel) Jacobson, Maynard (Merine) Jacobson, Lila (Norman) Burres, Sander Jacobson, Joseph Jacobson, Johan Jacobson, William (Mattie) Jacobson, Myrtle (Earl) Doran, Adeline (Norman) Eide, Alice (Arnold) Moe, and Morris (Donna) Jacobson.