Vernon R. Gatley, Jr.

NO. 17697  •  18 May 1927 – 30 Jan 2012

Died in Grand Junction, CO
Cremated. Interred in Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery, Grand Junction, CO

Vernon Rowe "Vern" Gatley Jr., was an only child born to Vernon Rowe and Marguerite Bain Gatley in Denver, CO, on May 18, 1927. He attended local Denver schools. When he traveled with his parents, he was home-schooled by his mother. For his high school years, he attended Fishburne Military Academy in Waynesboro, VA.

In 1944, during WWII, he enlisted in the Army at age 17. When he received his appointment to the United States Military Academy, he was assigned to the USMA Preparatory Unit at Amherst College, MA. After the members of the Unit completed their entrance examinations, they were transferred to Ft. Benning, GA, where they participated in an Officer Candidate School program. The USMAP program was unique because the entire cadre and many of the students were combat experienced, and each student represented some politically connected sponsor. The surplus of ammunitions available after WWII enabled the staff to have more live-firing exercises. Vern enjoyed the challenge of the course because it demanded both physical and mental abilities. The firing of weapons was of primary interest to him. On one exercise, he had a close call when one squad member pulled the pin on a shaped charge too early as the flame-thrower operator had a misfire with his equipment. Fortunately, the second start was quick enough for the attack to be successful. Another exciting time was when students in the company next to his unit tried to make a V-1 missile from a mortar round and extra powder. The explosion sent shrapnel through the walls of two barracks. The immediate shakedown inspection caused the staff to comment that they had not seen so much ammunition and explosives in personal lockers since 1945. During training period weekends, he enjoyed the Florida racetracks while visiting his parents. In June 1946, he was discharged from the Army and joined the West Point Class of 1950.

At West Point, Vern had no difficulty with either the military discipline or the academics. He was active in a variety of clubs: Pistol, Rifle, Spanish, Radio, and Weight Lifting. They helped develop capabilities which would be valuable for him in his Army career. He loved and listened to classical music for relaxation and enjoyment. His attributes were many, but the greatest, according to his peers, was that Vern was a gentleman wherever he was or whomever he was with. Vern claimed the best experience of the four years was when he met Marjorie Ann Ramsey on a blind date during his plebe year.

On Jun 7, 1950, the day after graduation, Vernon and Marjorie were married. When his graduation leave was finished, he reported to his first Coast Artillery Corps assignment with the 41AAA Battalion, Ft. Dix, NJ. The next year he was reassigned to the 70AAA Battalion at Ft. Myer, VA. In November 1951, he became a student in the Guided Missile School at Ft. Bliss, TX. His outstanding performance as a student earned him an assignment as an instructor at the school. Vern considered the faculty assignment as his favorite duty before he received a medical disability discharge from the Army.

Next, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a master’s degree in engineering. He was in business with his father for many years in Virginia, Florida, and Colorado.

Vernon’s next move was to state government employment. As a member of the State of Colorado Job Service Center, he listed available jobs and assisted clients in need of employment or a change to their careers. He enjoyed meeting new people and talking to them to discover their background, strengths and weaknesses, and what their employment dreams and desires were. Armed with that knowledge, he found pleasure in the puzzle of how to play to their strengths, correct their weaknesses (through training), and help them achieve their goals. He had a great sense of satisfaction when a client gained a position that fit him perfectly. He was particularly proud of his work with troubled youth in a program called Job Corps. He enjoyed being able to identify those candidates who would benefit from the service-like training they would receive under this program, possibly saving them from a life of poor choices and misdirection. Additionally, he liked to work with Veterans, helping them to find a career they deserved.

Vernon and Marge retired in 1993 in Grand Junction, CO. His favorite pastimes included camping, fishing, hunting, guns, reloading ammo, and being together with his family. His proximity near high mountains, arid deserts, and the largest table-top mountain in the world, the Grand Mesa, correlated with the fun and educational opportunities that Vernon wanted in retirement.

Vernon’s retirement years were not all pleasant, as he encountered a variety of medical problems. Yet, he maintained his positive outlook on life and enjoyed the most important item—his family. Marjorie R. Gatley, his wife of almost 62 years, survives along with their children: Patricia (Keven) Doan of Loveland, CO, and Susan (Mark) Britvec of Grand Junction, CO. They have eight grandchildren, sixteen great-grandchildren, and many cousins. Their son, Vernon "Chip" Rowe Gatley III of Grand Junction, CO, preceded Vernon in death in 2011 and leaves his wife, Zoe Gatley.

Cremation was completed and a full military service was held on Mar 2, 2012, at the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Grand Junction, CO.

— Family & Classmates