A Tribute To My Mother- Gina Vernon
Photos Provided By: Renee Denham
A Tribute To My Mother- Gina Vernon
By Renee Denham
I finally finished my information that you wanted about my mother, Regina Vernon, sociology instructor who lost her battle with cancer in the spring. I profusely apologize if this is too late, but for all those who love and miss this woman I pray that it is not. I have spent literally months thinking about this article. I have stressed over what I would say, I have cried over the memories, and even as I typed out the article and type this email to you I shed tears. I only finally found the courage and the strength to write the article out the night before classes started when I realized that I had not yet received a call from my mom telling me of her class schedule and when she was going to be going in and copying her syllabus for the first day of class. I have only now found the courage and the strength to send this to you.
I am not as eloquent in my words as my mother was, so I must tell you that while I hope what I wrote you is what you wanted, it still does not capture the sheer force of a woman that was my mother. I cannot capture her humor and her wit in words. I cannot capture the love that she showed her fellow person. My mother made everyone feel welcome and wanted wherever she happened to be.
Please let me know where this will go from here, if at all. Again, I apologize that this took me so long. I am still taking things day by day.
August 19, 2012
School starts tomorrow and for the first time in over 10 years my mother will not be there to start the semester. Regina Marie Vernon was born at Fort Bening, GA on August 3, 1953. She was the oldest of 8 children, a role in which she took much pride. She graduated from Ft. Smith’s Southside High School in 1970. She attended Arkansas Tech University and Westark Community College after high school where she majored in cards and pool, but left before achieving her degree in order to begin her own family. My sister was born in June 1974. Over a decade later, I was born in May 1985.
Everyday life and raising children took over the years. Odd jobs, factory jobs, jobs just to pay the bills filled the years until my mom decided she wanted more and returned to school in 1997 at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 1999 and immediately began work on her Master’s degree. She completed a year and a half of her Master’s degree before leaving school. While trying to complete her own education, my mother began teaching at UAFS in 2000 when a friend informed her of a position teaching intro sociology. She continued teaching until the spring semester of 2012, during which she discovered she had a fairly advanced stage of colon cancer. She even continued teaching during her cancer battle until she became too ill to continue.
Teaching was not my mother’s original plan. She always talked about traveling abroad and working with FEMA or the Red Cross. I don’t know when the plan changed exactly, but at some point, my mother fell in love with teaching. I think she realized that she didn’t have to travel all over the world to help people, she could stay in the classroom and help hundreds of people every year.
My mom would always tell me about her students. Of course, some semesters were better than others as far as the caliber of students that attended class. Those particular semesters just required more rum and coke during grading papers. (☺) Nevertheless, my mother would always give her best to every student. She had a particular fondness for the military students in her class. She would tell me of class discussions, students that would come by and visit her, even students that would still come by and visit with her after they had long since left her class. I cannot begin to tell your how many stories I have heard about my mother’s students. My mom was able to reach people and have a positive impact on their lives in as short a time as a college semester. I think to a lot of people she was more than just a Sociology instructor, she was a friend.
My mother was the most wonderful person and I cannot tell you how much she is missed. She had a beautiful soul and a fantastic sense of humor. She loved her family and was loved dearly in return. She leaves behind a legacy of 2 daughters, 5 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren. My only wish is that she be remembered as greatly as I will remember her.