Passing of the Golden Rake, and other ways neighbors paid tribute to Vern Christensen

A memorable West Seattle neighbor named Vern Christensen is gone but not forgotten. Cindy Craig shared photos and the story of how neighbors and friends gathered to remember him a few rainy/sunny Sundays ago:

On Sunday, March 30, about 40 friends (several of them 4-legged) gathered at the traffic island at 40th Av. SW and SW Juneau to remember their good neighbor, Vern Christensen, who passed away on March 15.

Most days during the past 24 years if you drove by the grassy knoll there on the corner previously known as ‘Weed Island’ you were likely to see Vern taking his daily constitutional, keeping a benevolent eye on the neighborhood between Fauntleroy and California and Brandon and Morgan. If it was raining, you would probably see him clearing the storm drain with his trusty rake because the city had asked citizens to help. Long before the West Seattle Blog was the ‘go to’ source for any news in Fairmount Springs, Vern was who you thought to ask first.

Vern was a farm boy from Flasher, North Dakota, born during the Great Depression in 1932. He always seemed to embrace those rural values of knowing your neighbors and taking the time to stop and share a story. He knew what the value of community was and he would have been pleased to see the diverse group of people that he helped weave together gathering to celebrate our common thread at the newly renamed ‘Vern Island.’

A native currant was planted on the island in Vern’s honor, and the Golden Rake and its duty to keep the drain cleared was transferred to another resident of 40th Av. S.W., Vern’s close friend Paul Sureddin:

And for a little while on a rainy Sunday afternoon in March, the sun came out just long enough for Vern Christensen’s neighbors to take one more walk around Vern’s beloved Fairmount Springs and remember a man who reminded us every day in his unassuming way what it was to be part of a community.

We will miss him.

11 Replies to "Passing of the Golden Rake, and other ways neighbors paid tribute to Vern Christensen"

  • Linda Vargas April 27, 2014 (3:50 pm)

    I miss seeing Vern in alley way each day, rain or shine for sure he was out there-Since we bought our house in 1995 Vern was daily fixture on the block-RIP Vern!

  • loaferpen April 27, 2014 (4:54 pm)

    I used to live in the blue house next to Vern 10 years ago. He loved to tell stories of his younger days. When I was…. Kids today …. We spent many days gardening and chatting through the chain link fence that connected our yards. Here’s to you Vern!!!!!!!!

  • Silly Goose April 27, 2014 (6:31 pm)

    I had the pleasure of meeting Vern when I was staging a condo on Fauntleroy, he was walking by and assured me he would keep an eye on the place and then proceeded to tell me about every neighbor on the block and all the houses to be aware of! He was a gem of a man!

  • NW April 27, 2014 (6:41 pm)

    Plan on taking my trash grabber out this week on a walk and carry on the tradition at a storm drain near you……

  • CeeBee April 27, 2014 (7:07 pm)

    What a wonderful tribute by thoughtful neighbors!

  • westseattletransplant April 28, 2014 (8:54 am)

    My first introduction to Vern was seeing him make his way through his friend (and my neighbor at the time) Paul’s yard. I wasn’t sure who he was or what he was doing in Paul’s yard, so I crossed the alley to chat with him. I discovered a gentle older man with an interest in our neighborhood. I moved to High Point not too long after that, so we didn’t have the opportunity to build a friendship. Every once in a while, when driving through the area, my wife and I would see Vern out walking – “Hey! There’s Vern!” we would say… He was known by many and his presence will be missed.

  • Shari Sewell April 28, 2014 (9:17 am)

    Vern was a kind, gentle soul and a wonderful neighbor! We felt a sense of security knowing Vern was making his rounds nearly every day. We miss you Vern, RIP my friend!

  • Blinkyjoe April 28, 2014 (9:27 am)

    Vern was the first neighbor to welcome us when we bought our house on 41st in 1998. Seeing him ‘on patrol’ in our neighborhood and stopping to chat made our little community feel like a small town. He is very missed.

  • karen April 29, 2014 (9:59 am)

    I was married to Vern’s cousin Lloyd Faubel and we lived just north of Alaska Way junction. Lloyd spent many many happy days visiting with Vern before his passing and they were such good friends. we also used to stop by and take burn to the old skippers

  • Dave Gould April 29, 2014 (10:07 am)

    While our moving van was being unloaded in West Seattle, Vern was there, asking who we were and adding to his vast knowledge of all neighborhood residents. This contact was the start of a great 8 year relationship. It is fitting that the neighbors named the traffic island for Vern. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone, though he held many strong values and beliefs. He will be missed.

  • Brontosaurus April 29, 2014 (9:57 pm)

    We will miss Vern very much. In the ten years we’ve lived in the neighborhood he has always been a fixture. My young son always waved to him and enjoyed talking to him, and my basset hound adored him!

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