Vernon Reed's Journey
Updated: Mar 7, 2021
The Rotary Club of Ridgewood AM is proud to have Vernon Reed as a longtime member of our club! Vernon’s journey to our club has had many stops along the way from the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to Northern New Jersey.
Vernon’s journey began similar to that portrayed by Sissy Spacek in the 1980 movie Coal Miner’s Daughter the biography of Loretta Lynne who grew up in Appalachia and became a national star. Like Loretta’s father, Vernon’s dad worked in a Kentucky coal mine and he and Vernon’s mom who worked in various factory jobs raised ten children, Vernon being the second in birth order.
Like Lynne’s life, music was an important part of the Reed family upbringing along with church life. All ten family members took up an instrument and one of his sisters became a professional entertainer. Vernon’s chosen instrument was trombone which completed the brass section of his family’s 10-piece orchestra. If Vernon didn’t have enough on his young plate, he excelled in sports, including tennis which has played competitively into adulthood.
Vernon’s family memories are made of music, Southern Baptist church, hard working parents and a house full of love. These are memories that have remained with Vernon on his journey as he left Kentucky for college in Indiana. He attended Earlham College founded by Religious Society of Friends and has a strong focus on Quaker values such as integrity, a commitment to peace, social justice, mutual respect, and community decision-making. After Earlham, Vernon received a master’s degree from Central Michigan University in 1980.
The values he experienced at Earlham resonated with Vernon and his subsequent 31-year career with the American Red Cross reinforced his compassion to help others. Throughout his Red Cross years and progressively bigger responsibilities for Red Cross offices in Baltimore, Washington DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Vernon combined his compassion along with a strong work ethic which saw him through twenty-two natural disasters during his career.
At a point in time when the American Red Cross reorganized its management structure, Vernon opted for early retirement in 2008. However, this didn’t stop his compassion to help others and his work ethic. Since leaving the Red Cross he has since was Director of Development with Bergen County Blood Bank, started his own vending company, volunteered at various non-profits and served as our Rotary Club President from 2016-2017.
Music has continued to play an important part of his life and he joined Orpheus Men’s Chorus of Ridgewood in 2004. This chorus of 50 amateur men performs regionally to sellout crowds with a range from Bach to The Beach Boys. Vernon can be found most weekends (during normal non COVID19 times) singing to the delight of many.
To describe Vernon as a renaissance man would be an understatement His journey has taken him far and he has only one regret. He lost his wife Laura to Cruz-Feldt Jacobs disease (CJD) a brain disorder in 2015 and wishes she was still by his side on his remarkable life journey.