Leo Vernon Powell (Mar 9, 1923 – Mar 9, 2016) was born in Ware Shoals, SC, and raised in Greenville, SC, where he attended kindergarten through junior high school. In 1936 he enrolled in North Greenville Baptist Academy, graduating in 1940. He remained there to graduate from North Greenville Jr. College in 1942. It was there that he met and married his late and beloved wife of 64 ½ years, Velma Pearl Beaty (1921 – 2007.)
Vernon’s passion has always been food service. From his earliest days at North Greenville, through military service, to large scale college and catering operations, his life’s work has always been about excellent food and quality service, no matter who the customer might be.
After being drafted for WWII and completing US Army basic training, Vernon taught at the Mess Sergeants’ School at Fort Lee, NJ. He then served as first cook at Fort Lewis, WA and as Mess Sergeant on Okinawa in the Headquarters Company, 1st Engineer Special Brigade. Toward war’s end, his company was sent to Inchon, Korea. When he returned and was discharged, he became the director of food services at North Greenville Junior College, where he opened Neves Dining Hall.
In 1947 he was invited to Presbyterian College (PC), where, except for the Korean Conflict, he remained until 1960. He then spent one year at Buck’s Restaurant in Asheville, NC, following which he established the Carleton House Restaurant in Rocky Mount. NC. He then returned to Clinton to open Vernon’s Restaurant and Motel, and later to manage the Hotel Mary Musgrove in downtown Clinton. After that he managed the food services and canteen operations at Newberry College for five years and then became catering manager for Atlas Vending in Greenville for five years. He was invited back to PC in 1977 and remained there until his retirement (with Velma’s spirited approval) in 1999. He served PC for a total of 35 years, during which he was permitted to manage the food service operations at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly, in Ridgecrest, NC, for nine summers in the 50s. He was known to the all-volunteer college-age staff as “Uncle Vernon.”
He had tremendous pride in his associates in production and his beloved “Blue Ladies” who served the line at PC. He would also frequently point to the invaluable aid of his staff, notably Mrs. Eva Mills, who could smell an error in an invoice, or the computer work of Chris Burns and Mrs. Jane Johnson. He would often defer praise in deference to the stellar performance of steward Walter Roberson, baker Olin Roberson, cooks Clarence Roberson and Carrie Belle Robinson, who (he said with a grin) could make a chicken fryer talk. Vernon was especially grateful to head cook Mrs. Violet (Vilo) Miller and to Vera (BB) Hunter, the latter having gone to Ridgecrest as head cook each of the nine years. In addition to day-to-day operations for the school, he greatly enjoyed catering to the community, both on campus and to all churches and races
Vernon truly enjoyed his long-held memberships in the VFW and American Legion. He was also very active in Kiwanis, and served as director, president, and Lt. Governor, for which he received numerous awards and commendations over the years.
It was always his pleasure to lead and to tend, but never to drive. He made every effort to live his faith—to love his neighbor and to be grateful for all aid. Every day he gave sincere thanks to God for friends, family, and longevity. He is survived by sons Joseph Powell (Susan) of Issaquah, WA, and Robert D. Powell (Carolyn) of Easley, SC, as well as grandsons Robert W. Powell of Kirkland, WA, and Robert V. Powell of Easley, SC, and granddaughters Karin Hills (Randy) of Renton, WA, Jennifer Hall (Michael) of Bothell, WA, and Elizabeth Powell of Salem, OR. He also had four great grandchildren and one great great granddaughter, plus an extended family of nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Everyone far and wide who knew Vernon Powell also knew that he always had a caring nature, a warm smile, and a good story or joke to lighten the day. Services to celebrate his life will be held at First Baptist Church in Laurens on Sunday, March 13, 2016. Visitation is in the Main Sanctuary at 2:00 PM, followed by the service at 3:00 PM. The family will attend a private committal service at Pinelawn Memory Gardens in Clinton, SC.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to North Greenville University or to the First Baptist Churches of Laurens and Clinton. Testimonials and remembrances may be made online athttp://www.grayfuneralhome.com/.