A celebration of life for Vern Graham, 88, who passed away Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, will be held at 3 p.m. today, Oct. 12, at the Hampton Inn in Kalispell.
LaVern Byron Graham was born March 21, 1929, near Grand Island, Nebraska. Three years later, his family moved to the La Salle area near Kalispell, where his grandparents had homesteaded in the early 1900s. Sadly, his grandparents lost a large section of land during the Great Depression that is currently under Glacier International Airport.
Vern attended grade school at La Salle School with his older brother Kenneth and older sister Ruth. He later attended Flathead County High School and graduated in 1947.
At age 15, he had the unique experience of being a night watchman at the airport, watching for enemy aircraft during World War II. His pay earned him flying lessons, which allowed him to receive his pilot’s license at the age of 16. He spent many hours flying people places and having many adventures.
Also at the age of 16, he worked for the U.S. Forest Service clearing trails, hanging phone lines to fire lookout towers, and even spending some time manning a lookout tower by himself, and he often said it was one of the loneliest times of his life.
He worked at many various jobs as a young man. He worked at Hungry Horse Dam when it was under construction. There he met and worked for a man who greatly influenced his future career choice. His name was Alver Hanson, who taught him some carpentry and homebuilding skills.
At the age of 40, he decided to become a homebuilder full time. In the next more than 25 years, he and his crews built more than 200 custom homes in the valley. The last few years, he worked with his son-in-law, Dan Spencer, who continued on with the business after Vern’s retirement. One of the last homes he built was his and his wife’s dream home overlooking Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains in Rollins.
On Sept. 20, 1954, Vern married Norma Osburn of Quincy, Washington. Their children are Joyce Ellen Lynch (Michael) of Tacoma, Washington, Rod R. Graham of Mountain Brook, Montana, Julie Louise Spencer (Daniel) of Mountain Brook, Hiedi Marie Vogele (John) of Townsend, Nancy Sue Schutt of Mountain Brook, Ed L. Graham (Lucy) of Phoenix and Rollins, and Crystal E. Graham of Glendale, Arizona. They have 10 grandsons, 11 granddaughters, eight great-grandsons and six great-granddaughters. One more grandchild is expected in 2017 and three more are expected in 2018.
Living relatives are sisters-in-law Katherine Graham (Ken) of Whitefish, and LaVonne Holmstrom (Curtis) of Hood River, Oregon, and brother-in-law Otis Osburn (Phylis) of Stanwood, Washington. He has many beloved nephews, nieces and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, parents Chester Owen Graham and Pearl Sallinger, brother Ken Graham, and his sister Ruth and brother-in-law Bud Pickar. Also preceding him in death was one stillborn daughter Laurel Anne Graham and one grandson, James Orville Shelton.