As the community mourns the loss of one of its beloved members, the impact of this one man can be perceived in the many lives he touched.
LaVerne “Verne” Dale Haugen, 85, of Washington C.H, died Thursday, June 22, at his home. He was a well-known community member who gave of himself to many organizations in the county and was remembered fondly for it.
While searching for people who knew Verne, it quickly became apparent that he had impacted many individuals and organizations in the county. Everywhere the Record-Herald looked for information or memories of Verne, many people would have a story that was unique or would remark on his memorable personality.
Verne was born Dec. 2, 1931, in Bellefontaine to Arthur D. and Lula Delight Hone Haugen. He graduated from De Graff High School and attended Ohio Northern University, where he received a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy. In 1973, Verne with his wife Barbara opened Risch Pharmacy in Washington C.H. Verne served as president and treasurer until his retirement in 2000 and Barb was vice president and secretary. He and his wife had two children, Terri Monnett and Marcus Haugen.
Local attorney Bill Junk, who knew him for the better part of 60 years, said that in this day the world could use more people like Verne. He said that Verne had a multi-dimensional personality and said that he was a member of many boards of directors in the community, to which he gave selflessly. A man who was always working for others, Verne had the incredible quality to connect with people, Junk said, which made each relationship special and made others comfortable to be around him.
“There is enough bad news around, we could use a story about Verne because he truly deserves one,” Junk said. “He really touched many people and is a representation about what is good in Washington Court House and Fayette County. He was very personable and very generous financially too. I know the white board fence at the golf course was a donation from Verne in memory of his wife. That is a very long fence and it was very expensive to construct, but he paid for it because he thought it would enhance the quality there. He was so honest and you always knew where you stood with him.”
Verne was a member and past president of the Washington Rotary Club and the Washington Park Association. He was a member and served on the boards of directors of the Huntington Bank in Washington Court House, Hospice of Fayette County, Inc., the Fayette County YMCA and the American Red Cross in Fayette County, among many other hobbies.
“Verne served on the (Hospice of Fayette County) board for many years,” Hospice of Fayette County Board of Directors Chairman Gwynne Gibson said. “After that he was a big supporter of Hospice. He was instrumental in the yearly golf outing and was in charge of that because he was a big golfer and very good at it. Even after Verne left the board, he still supported everything we did. He came in to help out our nurses and clinical staff with pharmaceutical questions they had and even did landscaping at our office. He just supported all of our efforts.”
Another frequented spot for Verne was the Fayette County Family YMCA, according to executive director/CEO Doug Saunders. Saunders said that Verne never met a stranger and would always greet people in the Wellness Center. He was a regular exerciser, always stopping at the front desk to greet the staff and was pleasant to everyone, Saunders said.
“He was on our board of directors for several years, so he was always a great supporter of the YMCA and believed in our cause,” Saunders said. “He helped a lot of people behind the scenes. Most wouldn’t even know everything he did for others. It wasn’t always public what he did, but I know he mentored others who were going into pharmacy, among a lot of other very wonderful things. He was helpful to me because being someone who relocated here, he helped me get adjusted. Verne was a member here early on so I always got to hear the old stories of Washington Court House, of the pharmacy and some of the people he ran into.”
Saunders said that before Verne passed, he was able to give him a word of thanks for helping him transition to a new community. Saunders also said that Verne was a boxer at home, and that his heavy bag and speed bag were donated by his family to the YMCA and the board of directors are going to put up a plaque with a photo of Verne in his memory.
“He was always inspiring, always motivating people in the gymnasium,” Chris Richardson, employee at the YMCA, said. “I use to call him the ‘Verne-inator’. He was unstoppable. At his age he was like the Terminator, you couldn’t stop him. He would come in and get on the cables, he loved working out on the cables. No matter what he always had free time to talk to you, give you a hug, or just chew your ear a little. I went and saw him the Monday before he passed away, he invited me to the house, we sat and talked about personal things for a little bit. One thing about Verne, his hair was always perfect. That Monday, before he went to the right hand of the Father, his hair was perfect. He was a really great guy and I was pretty close to him. I am really going to miss him.”
During his funeral, Junk read a letter from Verne’s son, who wrote that he and his sister had hit the parental lottery. Rev. Stephen Cuff used the word ‘excellence’ when he spoke of Verne and quoted him saying that, “The truly important life is one that enhances someone else’s life.”
Jennifer Guthrie also spoke during his funeral about how she met Verne.
“The first time I had met Verne was in spring 1996, my senior year of high school,” Guthrie said. “I had recently decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in pharmacy. I was driving by Risch’s after school and on a whim I decided to stop in and see if I could get a job. I remember it clearly, there he was in his work jacket, looking at me curiously. I introduced myself and we talked about high school and my plans for college. He asked me why I wanted to be a pharmacist and I stumbled around for an answer for what seemed like forever. He finally put me out of my misery by thanking me for coming in, he walked me to the front door and shook my hand goodbye. About a half hour later I got home and my mom told me that Verne had called and wanted me to call him back. Of course I did right away and he offered me a job. He always said he knew from the moment he saw me walk in the door that day that I was meant to be there, when in reality, Barb told him he had better hire me!”
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy