Vernon Handel: Died Nov. 11, 2022
On Nov. 11, 2022, Veterans Day, Vernon Handel (Colonel Retired) passed from this life into eternal life. He was 80 years old. Vern was raised on a farm in Menno, S.D., before catching the flying bug and attending the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree and an assignment to train as a fighter pilot for the Air Force. More importantly, during this time he also met the great love of his life, Connie, though, at first, she wasn’t so sure about him. Eventually, his quiet charm won her over and they were married for over 58 years with three children and six grandchildren.
His storied career in the Air Force took the family to Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Idaho, Ohio and Virginia, as a pilot flying the F-105 and F-111 aircraft, and as a maintenance and personnel officer. In 1979, Vern and his family embarked on their greatest adventure, moving overseas to England with an assignment to RAF Lakenheath. Vern and Connie decided to show their children the world, camping and budget traveling through not only the UK, but also Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Holland. Each trip was carefully planned for months in advance to make sure the family got to see all the best things, eat all the best food, and even have sips of the best beer! This assignment also allowed Vern his greatest career achievement, commander of the 492nd Tactical Fighter Squadron.
Following this assignment, Vern ended his tenure in the military at the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, retiring in 1988. Not quite ready to give up flying, he became a pilot for TWA for two years before moving to UPS for 17 years. While you were sleeping, Vern flew your packages around the world, usually to far reaching, exotic locales such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. He retired from UPS in 2007.
An avid and masterful woodworker, Vern built furniture, gazebos, toyboxes and toys for his children and grandchildren alike. He and Connie loved gardening and making their home, no matter where it was, beautiful and inviting. Vern’s family and friends would have a tough time finding a project or repair that he couldn’t complete with perfection. Always the consummate sports fan, he was known to watch two games at the same time, often rather vocally, depending on the outcome for his favored team. Vern was an ardent golfer, playing with his buddies twice a week during his retirement. Asked if he won, he would respond with “I didn’t have to buy the beer.”
Vern’s Christian faith was an essential part of his life. He served as an elder and volunteered his skills at Cross Roads Church and weekly to Agape Ministries. He is survived by his loving wife, Connie as well as his daughters Tamara and Tiffany, and son Robin and his wife Ashley. He was blessed with six grandchildren: Preston, Cameron, Ella, Chloe, Cole and Celia. A memorial service was held on Nov. 19 at Cross Roads Church, Windcrest, Texas. Vern’s remains will be interred at a later date at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.