Vernon Louis Bethke, August 11, 1935 – October 29, 2023, a lifelong resident of American Falls, ID.
Vernon grew up along with three brothers on his parent’s American Falls farm. Ade and Bertha Tiede Bethke raised a boy who loved being outdoors and loved building stuff…those passions remained until his life’s end. Other passions, and adventures for Vernon included cannon building and mountain man rendezvous, collecting single cylinder Franklin and first-generation diesel engines, and traveling to collector shows with them. A lifetime of scouring the banks of the Snake River and American Falls Reservoir amounted to finds of hundreds of perfect and near perfect Native American arrowheads and spear points in a variety of sizes and colors that still adorn the walls of his home. He liked to creek fish and was an avid hunter, big and small game. Elk hunting with the family and friends in the late fall was a favorite time for him.
Vernon embraced his calling of building things and became a journeyman carpenter after returning from his military service in the Army Infantry Ammunitions Branch as a Mortar Man. At age 38 he married a young widow, Lenora Koompin, and was welcomed to her farm and family by her and her two college age sons, Kenneth and Klaren. Vernon built her a beautiful home immediately. On weekends and after his day job, Vernon put up a shop, hog barns and did many concrete jobs for the Koompin Brothers Farm and continued helping with many family building projects over his lifetime. Vernon was employed by Borah Construction in the late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, until he became the head carpenter for Lamb Weston, which he retired from in 1997. He was a perfectionist in his wood and metal work and in pouring and finishing concrete.
In his retirement and golden years, you could find him riding his “horse” (ATV), everywhere from the farm to town, and the desert to the mountains. He enjoyed raising a big garden and sharing his produce. A daily routine in retirement was morning coffee with the fellas in town at the Rockland Pharmacy. He was honored serving in the American Falls Legion Post #3, in paying tribute to fellow veterans at their funerals and in Memorial Day services around the area cemeteries. He was faithful on Sundays attending worship service with his little church family at Shepherd of the Falls and took immense joy in listening to Brenda on the piano and often requested favorite hymns, “Just as I Am” and “Rock of Ages”. He was also faithful in making his secret recipe German sausage annually for over four decades and curing it in a beautiful brick smoke house that he of course built.
Vernon was known by many for his handcrafted small wooden cross necklaces that he readily gave out. He partnered with Juanita Burgemeister over the recent years in sending dozens of his wooden crosses along on Christian medical mission trips to Uganda, Africa. Some even went along with a group that left Oct. 27. He was also proud of his hand crafted, very detailed, 1/4” scale replica of the Pleasant Valley Martin Luther Church on display at the Power County Historical Museum.
Vernon was a vocal and proud American, creative, adventuresome, and helpful to so many and he packed a lot of life into 88 years. He was also very human, with a familial German stubbornness and often contrary and at odds with those who did not see things his way…whether in politics, society or just viewing life a certain way. His family and anyone who truly knew him will simply say, he was just being “Vernon”. He was loved and will be missed. The family is grateful for a merciful God taking him home finally after such tough, and literally rough and tumble health challenges over the last year.
Preceding him in death were his wife of 50 years, Lenora Koompin Bethke, brother Leonard Bethke, sister-in-law Monica (Larry) Bethke and infant granddaughter, Stephanie Koompin (Kenneth and Kathy).
He is survived by brothers David (Marla), and Larry Bethke, children Kenneth (Kathy) Koompin, Klaren (Cheryl) Koompin, grandchildren, Kamren (Brianna) Koompin, Kael Koompin, Amanda (Eric) Givens, Pete (Amber) Koompin, great-grandchildren, Kwin and Kami Jo Koompin, Owen and Evie Givens, Stetson, Oaklee and Sawyer Jane Koompin and nephews, Jason, Lance, Jerid and Nick Bethke.
Klaren and Kenneth could not have been better sons to Vernon even if not blood related and Vernon loved and appreciated them and their children and verbalized that many times over the past few years. Thanks to them and to Wayne Thomas and Bob Koompin for being such good and helpful friends, especially since Lenora’s passing last year. Gratitude also goes to Jared and Casey and all the caregivers at Edgewood Spring Creek Assisted Living as well as Patricia and the nurses at OneSource Hospice in Vernon’s last days.
A Christian burial and farewell service for Vernon took place on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023, at Shepherd of the Falls Lutheran Church and Falls View Cemetery. Visitation was at the church, 246 Lee Street, from 10 to 10:45 a.m., funeral service at 11 a.m. A dinner will be offered back at the church following military honors and committal at the cemetery. Thank you for any memorials being made to the American Falls Legion or Power County Senior Center.
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