Vernon Summer was a one-of-a-kind friend, scholar, rancher, historian, skier, cowboy, conservationist, adventurer, volunteer, husband and true country gentleman. Vernon was born Dec. 11, 1917, in Steamboat Springs and died Nov. 27, 2012. He lived his nearly 95 years on the family’s Colorado Centennial ranch in the Sidney community on River Road south of his hometown.
Vernon’s immigrant grandparents arrived in the Yampa Valley in the late 1800s with a few modest possessions and 12 children. His father, Louis, along with other siblings, spent their lives in the valley active in the agricultural development of the area. Vernon attended the rural Sidney School, just a stone’s throw from the family homestead. He often recalled with sentiment the academic and athletic competition between the many country schools along with the school-centered social activities that brought the ranching families together. It was in the Sidney School at a country dance where he met Edythe Chritton, who eventually would become his wife and devoted partner in their successful ranching operation. His concern for maintaining agricultural land motivated him to be active in open space and ranch conservation efforts.
Vernon completed high school in Steamboat Springs and then continued in the family ranching work, but he never ceased his education. Throughout his life, he was self-taught through books, newspapers and other media sources. He always was reading and could recite classic poetry, intelligently discuss world and local issues or cite the latest competitive accomplishments of Steamboat Olympians.
Vernon spent many hours of his youth on the slopes and ski jumps of Howelsen Hill and later joined Jim Temple, John Fetcher, Buddy Werner and others in skiing and studying the potential of a soon-to-be developed ski area on the flanks of Storm Mountain, now known as Mount Werner. He continued there as a charter member of the ski patrol for many years and continued to ski recreationally until he was nearly 90. His many sojourns into the backcountry would challenge the most adventurous outdoorsman. He was as skilled on a pair of skis as he was on the back of one of his favorite ranch horses.
Vernon was a faithful member of the Methodist Church congregation and read his well-worn Bible daily. He served on Steamboat Springs’ first planning commission as well as a special commission to build the jail west of town. Along with his wife, he was a longtime board member and supporter of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. He was an encyclopedia of local history and recalled with detail families and events that shaped this community. He had the ability to make history come alive with his endless recollection of stories.
With Vernon’s death, this community lost a remarkable citizen. But he died as he lived: with quiet dignity and a newspaper in his hands.