Dr. Vernon Rudolph Alford Jr. was a visionary, leader, opportunist, intellect, and a loving and committed Father who loved traveling, adventure, and life.
Born in Bennettsville, SC on October 16,1954 and raised in Laurinburg, NC, Vernon was the 3rd oldest of nine siblings. He came from humble beginnings growing up in Washington Park in a three bedroom duplex with seven of his siblings and their mother, Mae Willie Galloway Alford. This living circumstance fueled his desire to want more out of life for himself.
After graduating from Scotland High School, he attended St. Andrews College (now St. Andrews University) in Laurinburg, NC. He worked part-time at KFC to pay his way through college as an undergraduate English Major. Vernon met Dell McLean, who was also an undergraduate at St. Andrews majoring in Music (piano). Vernon loved writing poems and singing to Dell to express his sincere words of adoration. Vernon wrote several books of poetry and created visual art pieces throughout his collegiate years. These two Creatives married shortly after graduating from school in 1978. Vernon’s first job after graduating from St. Andrews was as a Language Arts Teacher at Shaw Middle School in Wagram, NC for two years.
By 1981, Vernon and Dell decided to start their family. They had three beautiful children; Mia Vericia Alford Fearon, Brooke Danielle Alford-Chambers, and Vernon Rudolph Alford III through the next 9 years. The Alford household was always filled with dancing, a wide variety of music, piano and guitar playing, singing, and laughter.
A few years after Mia and Brooke were born, Vernon decided to pursue his Master’s degree in Education Leadership at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, NC while still living in Aberdeen, NC. Vernon was a Reading Teacher at North Moore High School and later became Assistant Principal at Aberdeen Middle School. The family attended New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Rex, NC.
Vernon loved tennis and coached the girls tennis team at North Moore High School in Robbins, NC during his years there. He learned and developed all of the skills he knew about tennis through reading books. Anything Vernon wanted to know, he never hesitated to read a book about it.
Vernon and Dell moved from Aberdeen, NC to the suburbs of Kennesaw, GA in 1990 (less than a year after Vernon III was born) to raise their growing family and surround themselves with greater professional opportunities. Eventually, they settled in Marietta, GA two years later. Vernon served as Assistant Principal in Marietta City Schools for 2 years and then became the principal at Holcomb Bridge Middle School in Fulton County for 2 years. Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church in Marietta became the Alford Family’s church home.
“If you start something, you finish it,” were the words that Vernon instilled in himself and his children in any endeavor they chose to pursue. He continued his educational legacy to attain his PhD in Education Leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. After receiving this notable accomplishment, Vernon joined the Fulton County Board of Education as a Property Control Analyst.
New beginnings started for Vernon after his marriage of 25 years ended with Dell. He then married his second wife, Laura Severns in 2005. Vernon helped Laura raise her two sons Jacob and Matthew in West Cobb. Together, they opened a business, “Painting with a Twist” and pursued other ambitious business endeavors together through the 10 years of their marriage.
In 2015, Vernon married Sharon Dickinson, who he was with until his passing. Sharon and Vernon lived an adventurous life, full of world travel, discovery, freedom, and simplicity. During their marriage, Vernon retired from 40 years in Education in 2016. Retirement fully unleashed his love of singing, playing his guitar, and entertaining full-time. He recorded and released his first album, “By Request” in 2019. He named the album “By Request” because all of the songs on the CD were the songs most requested by his audiences.
Vernon was a father, grandfather, brother, husband, friend, cousin, and so much more to many. He loved his children and was there for them in so many ways all of their lives. Vernon said that his greatest accomplishments were his three children, seeing them all graduate from college, and giving them the greatest education he could provide. Vernon was a published author of several poetry and children's books (which he dedicated to his three children and two later step-children) over the span of 30 years.
He played tennis actively for decades, competed, and even won the state championships Mixed Doubles tournament in Augusta at age 63. Baseball and running were also athletic passions of Vernon’s. He coached his son Vernon III’s little league team for a few years and ran with Brooke during her cross-country training and competition seasons while she was in high school.
Vern, as he was so affectionately called, transitioned on Saturday, August 15, 2020 in his home in Dawsonville, GA. Vernon was preceded in death by his father, Vernon R. Alford, Sr. and his mother Mae Willie Galloway Alford. Vernon is survived by his wife Sharon Dickinson of Dawsonville, GA; his children Mia Alford Fearon (Desanchus) of Ellenwood, GA; Brooke Alford-Chambers (Demetri) of Marietta, GA; and Vernon Alford III of Marietta, GA. He adored his grandchildren Kasidee Fearon (6 years old) and 3 year old boy/girl twins, Kingston and Khelani Fearon.
He is also survived by his eight brothers and sisters: John Galloway (Connie) of Richmond, VA; Shirley Cooley (Reginald) of Frederick, MD; Leroy Alford (Cynthia) of Modesto, CA; Michael Alford (Shirley) of Laurel Hill, NC; Mary Jo Bayley of Frederick, MD; Elaine Wright of Rocky Mount, NC; Deborah McRae of Fayetteville, NC; Randy Alford (Maria) of Spartanburg, SC; his one Aunt, Doris Galloway of Bennettsville, SC; his beloved and ever supportive “second” father, William Smith of Newark, NJ who affectionately called Vern his “son”; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Anyone who knew Vern knew a kind-hearted man who was a leader and lover of life. He never met a stranger and made some type of impact to anyone that he came across. He was deeply loved and will be missed by all.