Associated Churches stalwart, the Rev. Vernon Graham crosses over

| February 1, 2017
The Rev. Vernon Graham

The Rev. Vernon Graham

FORT WAYNE—The city lost one of its most visionary faith leaders recently when the Rev. Vernon R. Graham entered the church triumphant to be with his Lord Jesus on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, while at his home surrounded by his family at his bedside.

Born in Neenah, Wisconsin, the Rev. Graham retired after 22 years as the executive pastor of The Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County. It was there that he set an an standard of activism that many came to understand as the example of what it means not just to preach the Gospel but to live it. Many in the faith community, social service network and general population know of his championing the establishment of an effective food bank system in the area.

Prior to taking on his servant’s role at The Associated Church of Fort Wayne and Allen County, the Rev. Graham served at Grace Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne for 12 years, two years at Lutheran Church of the Master in Perrysburg, Ohio, and two years at Grace Lutheran Church in Vassar, Michigan. After retirement, Vernon served as an interim pastor at St. John Lutheran in Fort Wayne, Zion Lutheran Church in Manchester, Indiana, and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Muncie, Indiana.

He was a graduate of Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, where he earned his Masters of Divinity. He helped found the Timothy L. Johnson School Academy and most recently served as the vice-president of its board of directors.

One of Pastor Graham’s favorite and most influential Bible verses was Matthew 25.40:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

His heart burned for the wellbeing of the community. Over the years, he served on numerous committees and in several advisory roles throughout the Fort Wayne area. In addition, he received multiple accolades and awards for his faithful and passionate devotion to help the least of these, including The Lutheran Foundation’s 2007 Maxine Rippe Award.

Vernon loved his family dearly, to the full-extent of his being, and they in turn loved him.

He is survived by his loving wife of 52 years, Ellen; daughter and son-in-law, Dawn and Thomas Starks Sr.; son and daughter-in-law, the Rev. Timothy and Michelle Graham; daughter, Melissa James; 11 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; brother, Russ (Sue) Neshek; sister, Michelle (Neshek) Grade; brother, Kim Neshek; sister, Gloria (Rev. Donald) Balgeman; sister, Dianna Graham Kargus; brother, Randy (Sue) Graham; and sister, Sheila (Tom) Handy. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Kristina Jane Alderdice; brother, Gary Graham; mother and stepfather, Marge and Russell Neshek; and father, Laverne Vernon Graham Sr.

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You fought the good fight, you kept the faith, and you’ve finished the race!”

Funeral service was Saturday, Jan. 28, at Trinity English Lutheran Church, 450 W. Washington Blvd., Fort Wayne (IN 46802), with additional visitation Jan. 27 at Messiah Lutherah Church.

Preferred memorials may be made payable to Associated Churches of Fort Wayne or Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana.

Arrangements were provided by D.O. McComb & Sons.

Obituary information courtesy of D.O. McComb & Sons.

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Category: Community, Local, Obituaries, Spiritual Matters

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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