PenMet Parks renames Sehmel pavilion for ‘Volunteer Vern’

Dedication: Friends, family members say Young wanted to give back to his community

of the GatewayFebruary 5, 2014 

When Vernon Young found out the Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District wanted to dedicate the pavilion at Sehmel Homestead Park after him, he wanted to make sure it was named “Volunteer Vern,” because volunteering was the important part.

That’s what PenMet Parks did Monday night.

At a special meeting of its the board of directors, the parks district dedicated the Sehmel Homestead Park pavilion in memory of Young. It will now be called “Volunteer Vern Pavilion.”

“He was the ultimate volunteer,” board member Scott Junge said. “It was never about self-promotion.”

Young died Jan. 7. He was 78.

His wife, Betty, wiped tears from her eyes as friends and family and community members shared memories of the “ultimate volunteer.”

Young’s daughter, Shari Young Allard, said when she takes her two boys to what they call the “teeter-totter park,” she’ll be able to show them a pavilion named after their grandfather, who helped make the park possible.

To close, Allard read a poem at the request of Young’s wife and her mother, Betty. The 1934 poem “The Guy in the Glass” was on Young’s mirror. He looked at it each morning.

PenMet Parks Executive Director Terry Lee said he knew he was doing a good job based on the frequency with which Young visited his office.

When Young was there often, it meant he wanted things done. When there were few visits, Lee knew he was doing a job up to Young’s standards.

All Young wanted to do was pick up litter and improve the area, Lee said. When Pierce County wanted him to take a bright orange “Litter Patrol” sign and wear a vest, he did it, but only so he could keep picking up litter.

“We never did get to the point where he could use a chain saw, because of liability,” Lee said.

Allard said she enjoyed reading the condolence cards she received for the way they characterized her father.

Dogged, determined and stubborn, Young got things done. As one card put it, when Young’s mind was fixed on a project, it was “as if there were 10 of him in the room.”

The dedication of the pavilion is not the only marker of Young’s volunteer efforts around local parks.

Marc Connelly, a former PenMet Parks executive director, said: “It’s Vern’s footprints that are there with you.”

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