On July 22, 2020 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer and a very full life, Vernie Elzen Witten, Jr. (Vern) of Portales, New Mexico died at the age of 96. Vern was born in rural Daviess County, Missouri to Vernie E. and Zola M. Witten. He was the oldest of their four children.
After graduating from Trenton High School in Missouri at the age of 16, Vern worked on the family farm. He was drafted into the Army in 1943 and stationed in Greenland. During the Korean War, Vern was stationed at Reese Air Force Base outside of Lubbock, Texas. That opened the door which would lead him back to the Southwest in the years to come.
After his military service, Vern farmed in Missouri and Kansas. In 1951 he enrolled at Emporia State University, where he received a bachelors in mathematics. He also attended Northwest Missouri State University and received his Masters from the University of Illinois, Urban-Champagne, Illinois. In 1955, Dr. IV Payne hired Vern to teach math in Carlsbad, New Mexico public schools. Later Vern would meet Dr. Howard Melton. The association with both Dr. Payne and Dr. Melton, resulted in a 27-year distinguished career at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) beginning in 1964 until his retirement in 1991. His career at Eastern did not end upon retirement. He remained active in supervising student teachers, participating in Upward Bound, and retained a professor emeritus status with COPE at ENMU.
After retirement from ENMU, Vern became an active volunteer in the Portales community. He shared his talents in several areas including: The First United Methodist Church, ENMU Wesley Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, substitute teaching, math tutor, and peanut brittle confectioner.
Vern is preceded in death by his father, Vernie, his mother, Zola Mae, and sister Beula Pollard.
Vern is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ida Lou, his three daughters, Barbara Kilburn (Tom) of Mt. Pleasant, Tx., Vonna Witten of Portales, NM, and Ayse Taimuty (Dan) of Bakersfield, Ca., sister, Cleora McReynolds, of Trenton Missouri, brother, Gerald Witten, of Emporia Kansas, seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held August 8, 2020 @ 11:00 am First United Methodist Church in Portales, New Mexico.
Ida Lou, Barbara, Vonna and Ayse would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Makayla, Diane, Keri, Wayne, Carrie and Tiffany of Interim HealthCare of Clovis for helping our family through this transition.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to ENMU Vern Witten Endowed Scholarship in Mathematics, First United Methodist Church-Portales, NM, or ENMU Wesley Foundation.
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