Cover photo for Vernon Sanders, Jr's Obituary
1943 Vernon 2020

Vernon Sanders, Jr

December 1, 1943 — October 9, 2020


Vernon H. Sanders Jr, 76, of Coalville Utah, passed away on October 9th , 2020 at his home.

Vern was born in Bemidji, Minnesota to Vernon H. Sanders Sr and Leona Jeannette (Olson) Sanders.  The family moved to the Salem, Oregon area where Vern completed school.  He was first exposed to aviation in Oregon, becoming a commercial pilot while simultaneously working full time as a vehicle mechanic, a job well suited to his mechanical mind.  After a short move to Las Vegas in the late 60’s, Vern was drafted into the Army for service in Vietnam.  His previous flying experience paid dividends, and Vern was selected to the Army Warrant Officer program to fly UH-1 Hueys.  Vern deployed to Vietnam from 1970-71 and was assigned to the 229TH Assault Helicopter Company.  Vern was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal for his efforts in combat.  True to Vern’s nature, he reflected upon theses awards as “just doing his job”.

Vern returned stateside and completed his Army service as an instructor pilot, exiting the military as a Chief Warrant Officer 2.  He then embarked on a journey as a heavy-lift helicopter pilot in the fledgling U.S. commercial helicopter industry.  Vern worked for numerous companies, including Rocky Mountain Helicopters, Carson Helicopters, and Erickson Sky Crane, to name a few.  He piloted a multitude of high-performance complex helicopters throughout his career, which is a testament to his superior airmanship and skill.  Vern was one of the pioneers of the industry, helping develop standardized practices for logging, wild-land fire, and construction that increased the safety and helped save lives.  Upon retirement, Vern had logged over 35,000 flight hours, or over 4 years of time flying aircraft.  More importantly, during his career Vern saved countless homes and lives from fire and helped build the infrastructure of the west.

Vern was a long time resident of Coalville, a town he first visited while conducting seismic exploration work for the oil and gas industry in the late ‘70s.  He fell in love with the area, and also with Jenefer Ann Smith, a Coalville resident who would be the love of his life and companion until her death in 2017.  The two spent time traveling together to various locations for Jenefer to photograph, and enjoyed hiking and gardening in their spare time.  Vern’s passion for fine machinery led to his cherished Porsche 911T, an automobile he enjoyed maintaining, restoring, and driving.

Vern was preceded in death by his wife, sister Joanne (Sanders) Foss, and his parents.

Vern is survived by his brother, Rick Sanders, daughter Yvette (Sanders) Young of Roseburg, OR, daughter Brook (Sanders) Lee of Ignacio, CO, son Tyler Sanders in military service, nephew John Foss of Santa Rosa, CA, and niece Suzanne Foss of Napa, CA.  He is also survived by his grandchildren, Tesla (Young) Miller of Roseburg, OR, Vaughn and Truman Lee of Ignacio, CO, Anderson and Zane Sanders of military locations, and great-grandchildren Levi, Trinity, and Taylen Miller of Roseburg, OR.

In addition, Vern is survived by the family of his late spouse, including sisters-in-law Sydney Smith of Seattle, WA and Mary Denise Smith of Salt Lake City, UT, brother-in-law Karl Hodges of Salt Lake City, and niece Elizabeth Kee of Seattle, WA.

In keeping with Vern’s wishes, there will be no public service.  Friends wishing to share thoughts or send condolences may do so through the Walker Mortuary website at  The family wishes to send special thanks to the Applegate Hospice Team for their help and support, especially Kathy and George.  In lieu of flowers, the family suggests taking your family out for a special meal to share their memories of this special man.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Vernon Sanders, Jr, please visit our flower store.


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