Vernon “Doc” Walsh was born December 9th, 1932, in Estherville, Iowa. Born into a Catholic
family, he was baptized on April 9th, 1933, at St. Patrick’s Church in Estherville, and he died
September 3rd, 2023, in the hospice cottage in Worthington, Minnesota, with family at his side.
Bare numbers tell us that he died just 40 miles (as the crow flies) from where he was born, and
that he spent 33,140 days on Earth. He spent the vast majority of those days living on the
flatlands of northwestern Iowa and southwestern Minnesota, but he loved travel and did much of
it. Military service took him to Korea. College drew him to Ames and Iowa State University
(where he proudly earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree). A teenage adventure with
high school buddies took him to New York City in a Model T Ford. Family vacations by car took
him to Minnesota and Ontario, Yellowstone, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Travels with
Mary Lou and with Tootie took him to Hawaii, and Europe.
Vernon grew up knowing poverty and hardship. His father struggled with mental health
conditions and alcoholism, and eventually left the family. His mother had nine children to
provide for and little means to do it. Older brothers Ralph and Robert moved to farms outside
Superior, and Vernon, at age eleven, moved to a farm a few miles east of Webb, where he
lived there until college.
As he got to know his way around the countryside outside Webb, he became friendly with
another family living a mile north across the farm fields. The family included two boys, and a girl,
Mary Lou, two years older than him. They became high-school sweethearts, married in 1955,
raised four children, and were together 38 years until her death in 1994.
Vernon graduated from veterinary school in 1960, and he and Mary Lou moved back to Webb.
He became a partner in a veterinary medicine practice and eventually became the sole
proprietor. Vernon remained in private practice until 1977, when he joined the Food Safety
Inspection Service as a Veterinary Food & Safety Inspector. He worked at a turkey plant in
Storm Lake, Iowa, and after a few years he was promoted to supervisor of a group of meat
plants centered around Worthington, Minnesota, where he and Mary Lou moved in 1984.
Mary Lou was diagnosed with ALS in 1991, and Vernon was her devoted supporter and
caregiver until she passed away in 1994. For years after her death he attended an ALS support
group in Sioux Falls, offering guidance and support to other families struggling with that disease.
After 20 years of work for the federal government he retired in 1997. On New Years Eve, 1997,
he married Tootie (Verlene) Place and moved to the Place farm near Sioux Valley, Minnesota.
Vernon loved outdoor activities, most especially fishing and hunting. Going on a wild goose
chase with Vernon was no metaphor, it was a real thing. He never seemed more excited and
engaged than when he was hunting Canada geese. He also loved to garden and to show off the
fruits (and vegetables!) of his labor. Tomatoes, sweet corn, and watermelon were some of his
most prized crops.
Vernon and son Dave grew to become each other's best friend. They went on many fishing and
hunting trips together, and they greatly enjoyed ending the day with a glass of whiskey and
Seven Up. Dave’s untimely death in 2009 was a deep loss.
Vernon was never hardened or embittered by life’s challenges. He never lost his sense of self-
worth, his decency, or his ability to find pleasure in simple things. He loved teaching and playing
card games, most especially cribbage and pinochle. He loved fresh garden foods, in particular
corn on the cob, watermelon, and homemade ice cream. His specialties as a cook were burnt-
sugar ice cream, barbecued ribs, and smoked game.
Vernon was outgoing, gregarious, and good-natured. He believed in visiting. He visited people
in their homes, in hospitals, and in nursing homes. He visited people who were well and people
who were ill. He visited people who didn’t visit him. It’s possible he visited people who may not
have wanted visitors. No matter—he believed in the power of presence.
A week before his death, he sat with us outside at the farm, enjoying late-summer sunshine and
a warm wind. He followed along with the conversation, nodding a “yes” or “no” occasionally, and
smiling easily. When it was time to go, we helped him into the van. He settled into his seat,
looked around at all of us, and said, “Good to see you all.” Were he able to speak to you today,
he would tell you the same. “Good to see you all.”
Vernon was preceded in death by his parents, Andrew and Harriet, six brothers (Ralph, Robert,
Kenny, Roger, Darrel, and Jerry), wife, Mary Lou, and son, David. He is survived by his brother
Marvin, sister Wanda, wife Tootie and her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, his children Cindy and
her husband John, Phil and his wife Sharon, and Nancy and her husband Mark, grandchildren
Suzanne, Mary, Eric, Andrew, Ellen, Erin, Jed, Jason, and Dana, and great-grandchildren Theo,
Luella, Brooks, Maisie, and Nolan.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Hospice Cottage of Worthington or to Ducks
Visitation will be Saturday, September 9, from 9:30 to 11:00 am at the Trinity Lutheran Church, in Sioux Valley, MN.
Funeral will be 11:00am Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Sioux Valley, with Pastor Jacobsen officiating. Military honors will be held after the service outside the church.
Burial will follow the service at the Garfield Township Cemetery in Webb, IA.