Magazine Feature / People

Alumnus spends retirement helping others

When it comes to giving advice, Vernon Perry’s approach is simple: “I just try to keep my mouth shut and my ears open.”

This humble tactic has served him well over the years as people have come to him for wisdom on all sorts of matters. But, when Perry felt God’s prompting to seek chaplain training after retiring in the late ’80s, he began serving others in a more formal capacity.

For 31 years, Perry (BS chemistry ’56) worked mostly for the U.S. government doing wildlife research. He also spent 34 years serving in the Department of Defense — three years as first sergeant in an army hospital and then in the Reserve National Guard.

Upon retirement from his professional and military posts, Perry says he followed the Lord’s leading into lay pastoral service. He completed a nine-month chaplain program by Arvada Resource for Ministry and Service (ARMS) in Colorado, which involved attending evening classes on theology, counseling, psychology and how to minister to the sick.

As a chaplain, Perry offers counseling and prayer, but mostly, he says, he is just is there to listen.

“Often people who ask for help are confused, lonely or have family problems,” says Perry, who turned 80 in August. “They just need someone to talk to. I find out where they are coming from and what their needs are.”

Perry acknowledges that he’s not a fully ordained minister, a counselor or a psychologist.

“I am just someone who has studied the Bible and has taken some classes. I just try to use what knowledge I have to share with folks,” says Perry, who took psychology and religion courses during his undergraduate time at DU.

Since the late ’80s, Perry has volunteered as chaplain at Lutheran Medical Center, Lutheran Hospice and at several other medical centers.

Today, Perry lives with his wife, Jeanne, in Westminster, Colo. The couple resides in the Covenant Village retirement community, where Perry continues to volunteer at least 16 hours a week as chaplain.

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