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January 24, 2021

11/9/2020 10:14:00 AM
Online Celebration of Life for Vern Hillesland planned for Jan. 16, 2021

Lavern Elvin Hillesland was born Friday, Oct. 22, 1926, in Calmar, Iowa. He was baptized and confirmed at Calmar Lutheran Church. Vern joined the United States Armed Forces during World War II, serving stateside as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. His military service, including reserves, spanned 21 years.
Vern studied mathematics and education at Luther College, graduating in 1949. He was a lifelong supporter of his alma mater, serving as class agent and later receiving the Distinguished Service Award. He loved visiting Decorah with his children and grandchildren.
Vern moved to Stewartville in 1949 to take his first teaching job. Shortly thereafter, he met his lifelong love, Jean, a fellow teacher, and the two of them made a home together in Stewartville for over 50 years. They were married in 1951 and spent several summers creating enduring memories in Boulder, Colorado, while Vern earned a master's degree in educational administration. They built a beautiful yellow house on 4th Avenue SW and raised two daughters, Wendy and Betsy.
Vern spent his career in teaching and administration for Stewartville schools, serving longest as assistant superintendent. He was intensely passionate about learning -- especially math -- and impacted thousands of students in his 36 years in Independent School District No. 534 (Stewartville). He retired in 1986 and enjoyed a life full of golfing with dear friends, volunteering at Zion Lutheran Church and with the Stewartville Lions Club, winning the Melvin Jones Award. He relished watching his three grandchildren grow. He loved to read, to do yard work, plan family vacations, and host the family for holidays.
Vern and Jean moved to Decorah, Iowa in 2007. They moved to Ingleside Communities in 2018, where he received fabulous care for the remainder of his life.
Vern died Thursday morning, Oct. 29, 2020, after a long decline with dementia. His wife and daughter were at his bedside hours before, reading scripture and singing beloved hymns. He was 94 years old.
Vern was a formidably intelligent man who passed the tenets of critical thinking and service to others on to his family and to his students. His quiet humor, handsome smile, delightful chuckle and dutiful generosity will be remembered and cherished.
Vern was preceded in death by his parents, Andrew and Ella, and his oldest daughter, Wendy Coe.
He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Jean; his sister, Betty Nelson; his youngest daughter, Betsy (Jerry) Busch; his son-in-law, David Coe; his three grandchildren, Shannon (Jon) Plichta, Robbie (Amber) Coe, and Zach Busch; and two great-grandchildren, Evelyn Jean Plichta and Lyla Jean Coe. Two more great-granddaughters will join the family in November.
Due to the pandemic, a Celebration of Life will be held online on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, at 1 p.m. Find the livestream at
Memorials may be made to Freedom Honor Flight, P.O. Box 505, La Crosse, WI, 54602 or mailed to Betsy Busch, 207 Highland Drive, Decorah, IA, 52101. Online condolences may be made at

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