Wednesday July 6th 2022

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He Has His Own Mind


“As you can see, I”™m part Irish American, part African American, and part Native American,” said Vernon. I asked what nation. “My brother says Cherokee.” He thumbed through his cellphone texts looking for a picture of his Irish American great grandfather, Henry O”™Killian. He never found it. We talked.

MIKE HAZARD “My father taught me to hunt,” says Vern. “We hunted to eat. Venison, bear, beaver, raccoon, and quail. We lived in southern Illinois, near the Kentucky border. I was a country boy. I”™m ready to go back.”

“I was a cook in the military, a biscuit burner. Sister Rose (the founder of Peace House) hired me to cook. I cooked at Peace House for two or three months, and then I got a job as a machinist. Machinist paid more, but I liked cooking more. I cook everything. I learned a lot about cooking from ex-girlfriends. (Laugh.) Italian, Spanish, Asian… I cook it all.”

“I”™m a Christian, but there is no honor and distinction in killing people. People can think what they want to think. My Dad was in WWII, my Grandfather was in WWI.”

“I followed the model of Muhammad Ali during the Vietnam War. I went AWOL. Don”™t make me kill somebody. I was a marksman, sharpshooter. But I decided I was against war. We don”™t have to kill people to solve problems. If somebody was here in our country, I could shoot to kill. But not these other wars. The Vietnam War was about who was going to control the heroin trade. The Gulf War was about oil.

“There”™s a proverb in the Bible, Don”™t let anybody lead you into Hell. Watch out for Satan. I choose my battles and who my enemies are. When I get to Heaven, I want to hear, ”˜You had your own mind.”™”

“I have a passion for martial arts. I am an instructor in Sunday school at Park Avenue Methodist Church, where Prince attended. It”™s a passion. I have belts in kung fu and karate. Kung fu is a style based on animals””tigers, reptiles, insects like scorpions and praying mantises. You watch these beings fight, and learn. Kung fu is soft style. Karate is hard style. There are a thousand different styles.”

Vern”™s life took a downturn in 2004. Robbers broke his jaw, and a few months later a car hit him as he rode his bike. “I went from $1,200 a week to less than $1,200 a month because of my back injury,” he says. Once he completed his therapy, he came back to Peace House, where the community helped him through the difficult time.

Now Vern often cooks at Peace House. “I like cooking and I like making people happy through my cooking.” On this day he cooked a delicious jambalaya.

You have your own mind, Vern, and yours is a great example of a good life.


This poetical picture story is by Mike Hazard. Marti Maltby, manager of Peace House, contributed some of the copy. It is part of a project called Peace House People. The work will be exhibited at Franklin Library in April, 2020. The project is funded by an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

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