By Tammy Allison – THE VILLAGE REPORTER
The Thanksgiving and Christmas season are typically the time of year when we turn our thoughts toward gratitude and giving to others. For one Wauseon couple, this spirit of gratitude and giving is a yearlong way of life. It is for this reason that the Wauseon Downtown Association has selected Mary and Vernon Oyer as the 2013 Grand Marshals for the Wauseon Christmas Parade. Based on selection criteria of community service and involvement, the Oyers have spent 58 years together serving the community they love.
Vernon, originally from Pioneer, Ohio, and the youngest of 8 boys, grew up in a close knit farming family. In 1946, his father decided to move the family to Wauseon to be closer to his brother who farmed in this area. Vernon graduated from Chesterfield High School and was drafted in 1950 to the Korea War. When he returned from his time of service in 1952, his parents had moved to town. He figured upon returning home that he would turn to the US Postal Service for employment. Instead, his parents’ neighbor suggested he come to the People’s State Bank. Vernon was told he was just the person the bank was looking to hire…someone a little older who had already served his country. Vernon had never thought of himself as a people person but found out he enjoyed working with the public. His wife agrees. “He’s been a people person ever since.” Vernon spent 35 years in the banking business.
Mary on the other hand is a born and bred Wauseon citizen. In fact, she presently lives only miles from her homestead. The couple first met through mutual friends, and their first date was a wedding of another set of mutual friends. Fifty-eight years later, they are still happily married with four adult children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Life has not always been easy, though. “You have to make adjustments along the way,” Vernon shares. The couple lost a grandchild at the young age of 3 ½ from cancer. They feel very fortunate to have the support and love of their family which helped them through that event. All their children live in Northwest Ohio. Some of their grandchildren reside in other states, but they enjoy the moments they are able to spend together.
“We were never pushy parents,” Mary says. Both Oyers agree as parents, it is important for children and families today to pick and choose activities because you can’t be involved in everything. Mary’s advice to parents today? “Spend time with your children. They grow up much too fast. What you can teach them now will pay dividends.”
Mary emphasizes that this may take sacrifice on the parents’ parts. Vernon feels the same way, but definitely feels that life for today’s parents is more complicated. “Life is different now. It was more simple then. It seems like it is coming from every direction.”
But both would agree that the sacrifices they have made in raising their family have been worth it. When asked what she feels her greatest accomplishment has been in life, with a laugh, Mary answers, “Raising four kids who have never been in trouble with the law.”
Besides her own children, Mary has devoted and invested herself in the lives of many of Wauseon’s children. Mary was a kindergarten teacher at Elm Street for 31 of her 35 teaching years. Mary is thankful for a wonderful teaching career. “Many good memories and friendships have come from those years with former students.” Besides teaching in the school system, Mary’s own home has been a catalyst for learning through music and years of piano students. In fact, she currently has 25 piano students.
Music has been an important piece of her life. Vernon says she is very proud of her piano students. Although many have gone on to specialize in music, Mary says she never expects to make music majors of them…she only expects that they will enjoy music.
For the Oyers, living in a small town is not only a wonderful place to raise a family, but there also exists a sense of community that develops into friendships. Mary says, “Some people say that in a small town, everyone knows your business. I suppose that might be true at times, but it is nice to go to the store and see people you know, to see friends.” Vernon agrees… “It’s not like the city.”
What makes a small town a community, is the sense of neighbors helping each other. For the Oyers, the sense of community service and giving back, is very important to them. Vernon has been involved with the Salvation Army since the mid-50s when he was first approached about becoming the treasurer. Although people are most familiar with the Salvation Army’s visible presence ringing the bell at Christmastime and have probably seen Vernon at Chief doing just that, the Salvation Army’s mission is to help people in need year round. The organization is always available to provide food to those in need or perhaps overnight shelter for someone passing through in need of a place to stay. Last year, Vernon was honored by the Salvation Army for his involvement and dedication and received the 2012 Distinguished Service Award.
Vernon is also heavily involved with the FISH, Friends in Service and Humanity, organization which assists local families in need with food. Salvation Army works together with the FISH organization. “As part of a bigger organization, we can help more people and work together in our efforts to reach those in need.” He was also a long-time member of the Wauseon Kiwanis Club.
Mary, also involved in the community, has been a member of the Wauseon Woman’s Club for over forty years as well as the Business Professional Women’s Club and the Delta Kappa Gamma, a sorority for honored career educators. She also belongs to a group of music educators.
Collectively, their sense of service and giving to others extends within their church as well. The Oyers are familiar faces at Crossroads Church in Wauseon where they both sing in the choir and have assisted in multiple roles over the years. “Our service has changed through the years,” shares Mary, but they have always found an area where they can serve and give to others. In their younger years, they helped with children’s programming and Vacation Bible Schools. Now, they assist with mailings, mission work to help inmates and staff of CCNO, and adoptive families within their church.
Mary and Vernon agree they have much to be grateful for in their lives. This humble couple credits God with the lives they have lived. Mary says, “I am thankful for my heritage. I accepted Christ at an early age and grew up going to church. I find that I become more thankful of this as I get older.” To which Vernon adds, “I would second that. I was also born in a Christian home. The Lord became very precious to me when I was serving in Korea. I was so thankful to have Him to rely on. He (the Lord) is an important part of our life together.”
They are honored to have been chosen as the Grand Marshals this year. “We’ve been honored for things before, but this is something different for us. We have never been awarded something together, ” Vernon states. They share that they were both very surprised when it was announced to them that they had been selected. They asked Jim Kerr, member of the Wauseon Downtown Association, “Why us?” to which he replied “Why not?”
This deserving couple is honored to serve the community they love in such a way. They are deeply touched that people respect them enough to have even considered them for this honor. They wish continued success to the city of Wauseon. They are looking forward to their horse-drawn carriage ride in the Christmas Parade and plan to dress warm! They want to remind everyone to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas in their activities and with their families. For this couple, their attitude of gratitude and giving back to the community has not only blessed others, but has blessed them with an amazing life in Wauseon.
Tammy Allison may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org