Obituary of Verna Kathleen McConnell
Verna Kathleen McConnell
1933 - 2021
Verna was born in Bemidji, MN to Alvina (Urbach) and Benjamin Munig. (Her older brother—Robert Munig—predeceased her in 2013.) Her family later moved to Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1951.
An excellent student, she had always dreamed of attending the University of Minnesota. Instead, she chose to use the money she had saved for her first year of college, to rescue her divorced mother from the back taxes she owed. So instead, Verna attended a (less expensive) business college. She started her career at Dayton’s Department Store in downtown Minneapolis. She had a dramatic flair and enjoyed performing in employee reviews, community theater, and later danced in the corps de ballet of a long-forgotten local ballet company.
Verna continued to apply her superb organizational skills and became a regional manager for a women and children’s store called, The Three Sisters. Since she was required to travel between the stores in Minneapolis, and Rochester, MN—and Marshfield, WI…she decided to buy a car. The problem was…she didn’t know how to drive. She told the salesman if he could teach her how to drive, she would buy a car. He did, and she did!
It was while Verna was working at the Minneapolis store that she met her future husband, Tom McConnell. She was allowed to join the “businessman’s association” in the shopping center—if she agreed to act as secretary. All of these stores got together to hire a Santa Claus for the holidays. One November day, in 1958, they asked Verna to bring “Santa” a new beard, because his was looking really shabby. Tom McConnell had gotten the job playing “Santa,” and that’s how they met!
They were married at St. Stephen’s, in Minneapolis, on April 25, 1959. In 2021, they celebrated their 62nd Wedding Anniversary together, as “roommates” at The Haven of Sedona, in Arizona. They were happy to spend their last four months together, because after Tom’s major stroke (and due to COVID-19 restrictions) they had spent the previous 20 months apart.
Tom was quite the entrepreneur and during his career as a chef in Minneapolis, he and Verna opened a home-based business, Cakes Unlimited. Verna always said she worked herself harder in their business than ANY employer would‘ve ever dared work someone. Yet, this business allowed her to work from home. Tom and Verna raised their four children (Kathleen, Tom, Jr., Teresa, and Margaret) in New Hope, MN.
Verna was very active as a volunteer in Girl Scouts—receiving their highest honor, the “Thank You Award” from the Greater Minneapolis Girl Scout Council in 1976. She was also an active volunteer in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Always community service oriented, she served for many years on the New Hope City Council Planning Commission.
Even though Verna was born and raised in Minnesota, she had ALWAYS hated the bitter cold winters and sweltering summers there. In June 1976 (after a family vote) she and Tom closed Cakes Unlimited, loaded up the biggest U-Haul available, and moved their family to San Jose, CA. What an adventure!
Tom continued his career as a chef, and Verna trained for a new career in security and plant protection in Silicon Valley. Again, Verna’s excellent organizational skills, and superb attention to detail…made her an essential team member at her various employers.
In 2001, she retired from Westinghouse Marine Defense Division/Northrup Grumman in Sunnyvale, CA. Of note, is the California State Citation of Meritorious Conduct, Verna was awarded for her quick action, and precise attention to procedures, in securing defense contractor personnel, facilities, and equipment during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
With part time retirement for Tom and Verna, came the realization of Tom’s dream to become full time RV’ers. The two of them traveled the country—pilot and copilot—side by side! Verna organized their travels so they could spend the salmon fishing season in Santa Cruz, CA. (This allowed Tom to run the galley on a sport fishing boat, The Wild Wave.) Verna—ever the organizer—volunteered at the local Family History Library for, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During the “Snow Bird”months of the year, Tom and Verna worked as chef and kitchen manager at two different Western Horizon RV Resorts in Arizona. Yes! Verna trained, again, for another career—that of kitchen manager. Always the serious student, she aced the required courses, tests, skills, and certifications. Yup! She ran a “tight ship,” er, KITCHEN!
FINALLY…in 2012, Tom and Verna retired—for good! Verna enjoyed volunteering in her church library, and doing family history research. Always a voracious reader, she reveled in the time she had to immerse herself in the printed word! She, also, gained great joy in seeing her grandchildren grow up! The night before Verna passed away…she told her granddaughter visiting her, she wasn’t ready to die yet, because said she, “I want to meet my great-grandson!” (He was born in November.)
If you know anything about Verna…you know how much she loved to send greeting cards!! She took on the task of sending birthday cards from a couple of her wards’ Relief Society Presidencies to several hundred sisters each year. She was a treasure; her organizational skills couldn’t be beat!
In her final months, Verna suffered from major problems with her upper GI system. She died due to complications of this and the affects of age. Verna and her husband Tom (who, also, died this year—August 4, 2021) were wonderful examples of those born during The Great Depression. They were made of “tough stuff.” They were resourceful, and they were survivors! They lived their lives with passion and gratitude for their many blessings! Their oldest daughter, Kathleen and her triplets (who all live in CA) were able to be with Verna at the end. It was, indeed, a tender mercy for such a kind, generous, and beloved mother and grandma, to have family attend her at the end of her life.
The family is planning a double memorial service in the spring of 2022. Additionally, Verna’s family wishes to profoundly thank the doctors, nurses, and staff at The Haven of Sedona, Compassus Hospice, and Verde Valley Medical Center for their professionalism, care, understanding, and compassion they gave Verna!!!
She shared such happiness and enjoyment from learning—and living—the Gospel of Jesus Christ with her Ward Family, the Mountain View Ward in Cottonwood, AZ. We are deeply grateful to her Bishops, Relief Society Presidents, Ministering Brothers, Ministering Sisters, and the good friends Verna made in the 13+ years she lived in the Verde Valley of Arizona.
Verna LOVED—and needed—the sunshine to make her world hum, and to feel her best! Her nickname, “Sunshine,” (given to her by her daughter, Kathleen, in 2007) always made Verna smile! So, for now we say… “‘Til we meet again…Sunshine!”
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