Seaside

March 9, 1933 — May 11, 2021

“Welcome, I’m glad you’re here!” This was the warming demeanor Leila carried at any community event she volunteered for.

Leila Mae (Hickerson) Vernor was born on March 9, 1933, in Alton, Illinois. At home with family and friends by her side, Leila quietly passed away on May 11, 2021, in Seaside. Leila had a smile on her face with peace, knowing she was going to be greeted by God welcoming her home.

Leila was the fourth of five children, and was preceded in death by sisters, LaVelle Hair, Emma Jane Boschert and Eva Jean Rose, and baby brother, Clarence “Sonny” Hickerson. All of the siblings were born to their late parents, Leila Viola (Perrings) and Clarence Davis Hickerson, in Alton.

Leila graduated in the last “January class” from Alton Senior High School in 1951. She was in French Club, Future Business Leaders of America, FDA, student council, on the dean’s list and played the alto sax in the band. After graduation, she went on to the Rubicon Business School for accounting in St. Louis.

Leila’s older sister, Emma Jane, and her brother-in-law, set up a blind date with someone who would become Leila’s future husband, and they played “Cootie.”

It worked, because on June 20, 1953, in 102-degree weather, she married Oliver W. Vernor (former Seaside mayor from 1995 to 1998) from Wood River, Illinois, at the Cherry Street Baptist Church in Alton.

Leila and Oliver (Ollie) later moved to South Bend, Indiana, where they were blessed with two wonderful children, Robert Wayne Vernor and Cathy Jo (Vernor) Opfer.

They moved to Chicago Heights, Illinois, after a few years. There, Leila discovered Robert could not see well. Leila’s compassion and understanding helped Robert overcome the challenges of being legally blind. She was an amazing mother, and took great pride in helping Robert.

The Vernors moved to Louisville, Kentucky, then Florissant, Missouri. In these moves, Leila became the president of the PTA for the school of the blind, president of the local garden club, participated in county fairs and made lifelong friends.

Leila and Ollie took a visit to see her oldest sister, LaVelle Hair, who lived in Seaside, and they were hooked! “We’re moving to Seaside!” they said.

They continued their activism in Seaside, starting with church. Being warmly welcomed when they walked into Seaside United Methodist Church, they knew they were home.

Leila made great friends in her numerous groups in Seaside, like the ambassadors, the Bob Chisholm Community Center, Elks Lodge No. 1748, being Mrs. Mayor, Sunset Empire Park and Recreation, the Seaside Museum, TOPS Club and her home away from home, Seaside United Methodist Church. Leila also absolutely loved her annual excursion to choir camp at Camp Magruder.

Leila loved being in church. There she was a devout member, pie maker, seamstress, award-winning counted-cross stitch artist, bread pudding chef, cookie maker, choir singer and United Methodist Women leader. She exemplified all that good “church” is meant to be and stand for.

Many of Leila’s friends have shared how their lives were enriched by her kindness and empathy that would radiate from her. She would make you feel “seen,” and make sure you felt welcomed. Her wishes would be to please continue sharing kindness to others.

Leila was an amazing wife, and was married 59 years to Oliver (1953-2012). Facing life and all its obstacles together, they persevered and were determined to make this world a better place through fairness in truth and kindness.

She believed in the power of prayer. She loved her husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, church, friends and neighbors. She was able to love all these people because she loved Jesus, and always put God first.

Leila is survived by her son, Robert W. Vernor, and his wife, Shirley, of Denver, Colorado; her daughter, Cathy “Cj” Opfer; her grandchildren, Joshua and Karina Hedegaard, of Silkeborg, Denmark, and Jessica and Rasheed Raines, of Roanoke, Virginia; and her great-grandchildren, Matthew, Autumn, Chloe, Carter, Kianna, Katie and Jack.

A memorial is being held at 11 a.m. on June 26 at the Seaside United Methodist Church, 241 N. Holladay Drive. There will be a link to join the service via Zoom. Contact the church office by email before noon on June 25 at seasideunitedmethodist@gmail.com to receive the link.

There will be a gathering after the service at 725 Second Ave. in Seaside.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to the Seaside United Methodist Church.

Please feel free to leave a note of a special memory to share with Leila’s family in her guest book at caldwellsmortuary.com

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