Gertrude Vernon, 69, of Laurel Springs, a much-loved teacher at Glen Landing Middle School in Blackwood for 39 years, died Thursday, Dec. 27, of an aortic tear at Jefferson Washington Township Hospital. She had been shopping at the Target store in Mantua when she collapsed, her family said.
From 1973 to 2010, when she retired, Mrs. Vernon, known as “Trudy,” taught physical education, health, and life-skills classes in the Gloucester Township School District in Camden County. She was there for so long that she taught the children and in several cases the grandchildren of her original pupils.
“The world has lost an amazing life much too soon,” said Thomas Seddon, a former district superintendent now retired and living in Florida. “Her loving spirit will live on in the lives she has touched. She most certainly has earned a special place in heaven.”
Born to E. Ray Goode and Harriet Gladys Smith in Newton, Mrs. Vernon grew up in Frankford and Denville. All three places are in North Jersey. She graduated from Glassboro State College, now Rowan University.
She was known as “Miss Goode” when she taught in the early 1970s at Chews Elementary School in Gloucester Township. After she married Richard Vernon in 1984, she became Mrs. Vernon to her pupils.
Barbara Baals, a former student who completed her Glen Landing schooling in 1980, remembered Mrs. Vernon as “a stellar human being — caring, genuine, funny, encouraging, and smart. She was exactly the type of teacher students need during those pivotal middle school years, and she made every student feel noticed, loved, and appreciated. She was beloved and respected beyond compare.”
After Mrs. Vernon died, scores of former students, colleagues, and friends left remembrances on an online guest book.
Blake Clemmer of Blackwood, a student of hers at Glen Landing in 2003, wrote that Mrs. Vernon made a point to listen to pupils before, during, and after class. “She had an open-door policy for all students,” Clemmer said. "I will always hold close the special letter she personally wrote and mailed to me highlighting my talents and abilities.”
Vivian Morrissey, a coworker for 25 years, recalled Mrs. Vernon’s sunny personality. “I can’t think of a single time when I saw her without that smile on her face,” Morrissey wrote. “She thrived on the love she gave her students and received back from them. Her passing leaves a huge hole in all our lives.”
In retirement, Mrs. Vernon returned to Glen Landing as a substitute teacher. She also coached cheerleading and softball, and directed the Hearts for Humanities club, which encourages students to participate in lifelong community service.
“She lived by the saying, ‘It’s not the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away,’” her family said.
She was a member of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Laurel Springs.
She enjoyed both learning and teaching the art of painting, spending time with her grandchildren, finding treasures at garage and yard sales, and taking trips to Atlantic City.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Douglas Daniel Olsen; a stepson, Jason Vernon; four grandchildren; a brother; two sisters; and nieces and nephews. She was previously married to Douglas Olsen. They divorced; he also survives.
Funeral services were Thursday, Jan. 3.