If Winton Vernon was in the room, you probably knew.
He was probably making everyone laugh or feel like a friend or feel better about their day. Maybe he had a guitar, or maybe he was fixing a car. Somehow, some way, if he was there, he was probably making it better, those close to him said.
Vernon, a marketing senior at WKU from Bardstown, died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Aug. 4 due to head trauma and spinal cord injuries from a car accident, according to his obituary.
Vernon was a member of the Zeta Theta chapter of Delta Sigma Pi at WKU. Delta Sigma Pi is a professional business fraternity. Kirk Atkinson, information systems professor and faculty adviser for Delta Sigma Pi, remembered Vernon as a “kind, big-hearted soul” who loved people and treated everyone he met with dignity and respect.
“He was known among the members of Delta Sigma Pi, of which he was a member, to always make people smile or laugh,” Atkinson said via email. “I am thinking, what a way to be remembered, to bring a little joy to those around him.”
Through Delta Sigma Pi, Vernon met many people and made many friends. One of those was Josh Rickert, a 2019 business management and data analytics graduate from Lexington. Rickert described Vernon as an amazing guy with a can-do attitude who was often the center of attention in whatever room he was in.
“I never once saw him back down from a challenge,” Rickert said via text. “He was ambitious and brought excitement to any endeavor.”
Another member of Delta Sigma Pi that was friends with Vernon is Sarah Armstrong, an international business senior working on a Master’s in organizational leadership from Bowling Green.
Armstrong said they met as she was giving a classroom presentation for Delta Sigma Pi recruitment. Armstrong described him as a hard worker and highly dedicated.
“He was kind & friendly to everyone and knew how to put a smile on peoples faces,” Armstrong said via text. “Winton was full of laughter and always had fun.”
Armstrong said that Vernon treated everyone as a friend, no matter how long he’d known them.
Skyler Ballard, a photojournalism senior from Bloomfield, was friends with Vernon in high school. She said she would describe him as Ferris Bueller from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Ballard described Vernon as the “absolute goofiest and most authentic” person she knows, which made their friends willing to follow him through crazy ideas and pranks.
“There was hardly a time when he didn't have an instrument within reach, and he taught me so many of the songs I know now on guitar,” Ballard said via text.
Ballard said one of the last times that they spent time together, they sat around for hours playing guitar.
She remembers him making everyone he was around laugh. Vernon was also interested in driving. Ballard remembers riding around with him and their friends in an old red Fiat that he and his dad used to work on.
“I think the best thing about when I was around him though was that I never had to hold back any excitement with him,” Ballard said via text. “We both tend to get really overexcited about things we're passionate about, and so when we were around each [other we] were basically just always yelling because we were always excited about something.”
News reporter Lily Burris can be reached at 270-745-6011 and email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @lily_burris.