April 23, 1918 – January 17, 2014
Vern Courtright Miller, 95, of Urbandale, passed away Friday, January 17, 2014, at Iowa Methodist Medical Center from pneumonia. A memorial service celebrating Vern’s life will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, January 24, at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines. Committal services will follow at 11 a.m. at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Van Meter.
A native of Iowa all his life, Vern was born April 23, 1918, in Moorland to Lester Vernon and Mildred Lee Courtright Miller. He spent his childhood and youth in Duncombe and Cedar Falls. Vern earned his bachelor’s degree in music from Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) and his master’s degree from Northwestern University; he completed advanced study at the Julliard School of Music in New York.
In 1941, Vern went into the Army and served with the 11th Airborne Division on the Philippines and Japan where his service was twofold. As a supply sergeant, he worked in parachute maintenance and resupply, flying behind enemy lines to drop supplies and equipment to paratroopers. Vern was also a band leader and member of the 11th Airborne Division Band as an instrumentalist and soloist, performing classical and popular music for military personnel.
After his service, Vern joined the fine arts faculty at Drake University in Des Moines in 1947, where he taught voice and music education until his retirement in 1983. Vern married Elizabeth Slaughter in 1958, while both were teaching at Drake.
During his early years in Des Moines, he was a tenor soloist at several Des Moines churches and choir director for several years at Highland Park Presbyterian Church. He also enjoyed roles community theatre productions.
After retirement, Vern volunteered at Our Community Kitchen helping the homeless and served on several committees at Westminster Presbyterian Church where he was a longtime member. He enjoyed traveling the world with his wife, visiting with dear friends and family, and playing with his grandchildren.
He is survived by his two daughters, Molly Elizabeth (Miller) Turner and her husband, Scott Turner of Chicago, IL and Julie Anna Miller of Des Moines; sister, Doris Miller of Urbandale; and two grandchildren, Gabrielle and Harrison Miller. Vern was preceded in death by his wife, Betty, in November 2013.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Westminster Presbyterian Church fine arts program.
ARRANGEMENTS BY ILES WESTOVER CHAPEL.Information provided by: Iles Funeral Homes Westover Chapel 6337 Hickman Road Des Moines, IA 50322 www.ilesfuneralhomes.com