Vernon Gay, 89, of Oskaloosa, passed away on December 1, 2022, at the Hospice Serenity House.
Vernon Wayne Gay, son of Ernest Henry and Helena Marie (Denburger) Gay, was born November 29, 1933, at the family’s rural home six miles northeast of Oskaloosa. Growing up on the farm, Vernon always enjoyed working with his hands and had an eye for mechanical things. He took orange crates, made several toys, and even constructed a small baler for yard clippings. Vernon attended Lacey Consolidated School and, after graduating in 1953, continued to help his father on the farm and did mechanical work for a couple of garages in Oskaloosa. In 1954, he married the love of his life, Betty Dunwoody, and they made their home on a farm three miles from where he was born. Over the coming years, his early passion for building led him to build several structures, including a garage, storage sheds, granaries, and a farm shop on his homestead. In 1960, Vernon was hired by Jenkins Plumbing in Oskaloosa, and in 1962, he started Gay Plumbing and Electric Company. He specialized in general plumbing, electrical work, and water well pump sales and service; he served over 3680 pumps and 900 customers. Vernon attended many seminars and short courses to improve his business; some were held at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, Indian Hills, and several factory schools. Vernon was a National and Iowa Certified Well Contractor, a Grade 1 Certified Water Plant Operator, a Master Licensed Electrician, and a Master Licensed Plumber in the State of Iowa. At one time, he could repair almost anything. Vernon served as an officer in the Iowa Association of Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling Contractors. Through the years, he held several offices in the Iowa Water Well Association and, in 1977, served as its president. On January 26, 2017, Vernon was honored with a Lifetime Membership at the Iowa Water Well Association’s 88th annual convention. A long-time member of the National Ground Water Association (NGWA), Vernon served a one-year term as director and traveled to Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific as a representative of NGWA, inspecting wells and water systems. Vernon’s passion was clean water, and he gave his time and energy to ensuring his friends and neighbors worldwide had access to the best available.
When he wasn’t working, Vernon enjoyed raising Angus cattle. He also enjoyed family time with his children and grandchildren, four-wheeler and motorcycle riding, and playing with his dogs. He was also interested in genealogy and could trace some of his ancestors back to the 1600s. Eight generations of his family have lived within three miles of where his forefathers settled in Adams township. He and Betty enjoyed many bus and plane trips in the United States; he visited Europe three times and the South Pacific once. Thanks to his mother, Vernon was an avid reader. He enjoyed human interest, animal, travel, and non-fiction literature. Vernon was a Poppin Jonnie Tractor Club member, collected antique tractors, and went on several tractor rides in the state. In his youth, he was a member of the Mahaska Rural Youth and later joined the Ruritans, People to People, and the Dutch Master’s Auto Club. He was a long-time township trustee in Adams Township and over a 25-year Mahaska County Sheriff’s Posse member.
Vernon was a quiet fellow but truly enjoyed sharing an old quote or good story. One of his favorites was his trip to Europe with the neighbor lady, only to find out his neighbor lady was his daughter. He attended the Rose Hill Community Church, and on September 29, 2015, Vernon made a profession of his faith and asked Jesus into his heart.
His family includes his wife, Betty of Oskaloosa; his children and their spouses: Howard (Mary) Gay of Rose Hill, Larry (Christy) Gay of Oskaloosa, Shirley (Steve) Goemaat of New Sharon, and Beverly (Val) Allsup of Cedar; 13 grandchildren: Travis (Jenny) Gay, Aimee (Jon) Higgins, Joshua (Katie) Gay, Nathaniel (Becca) Gay, Holly (Dean) Verhoef, Heather Malone, Matthew Molesworth, Rebecca Brittian, Christina (Jarrod) Hatfield, Eric Molesworth, Katie (Justin) Forbes, Brett (Hope) Smithart and Ryan (Michelle) Smithart; and 30 great-grandchildren and growing.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
Funeral services for Vernon will be held Tuesday, December 6, 2022, at 10:00 am. at the Langkamp Funeral Chapel with Pastor Mike Sinnett and Pastor Del Bittner officiating. Visitation will begin Monday, December 5, 2022, after 2:00 pm with the family present from 4-6 pm to greet relatives and friends. Memorial contributions can be made to Keomah Genealogy or Rose Hill Community Church.