Vernon E. Sheldon was appointed an Allen County Superior Court Judge in 1985. He was elected in 1990 and re-elected in 1995. He retired and went on senior judge status in 1998.
Judge Sheldon died Sunday at age 77.
Judge Sheldon had an outstanding judicial temperment. He was calm and deliberative. He comported himself in the courtroom in a way that preserved respect for the law and for administration of justice in Indiana.
I knew him as a judge. However, I also got to see him in a different way as well.
I lived next to his father on Tennessee Avenue. So, I also knew him as his father's son. At the time I bought my duplex on Tennessee Avenue, Judge Sheldon's father - also Vern - and his mother were both living in the house near the point where Oneida Street meets Tennessee.
Mr. Sheldon (the senior) devoted himself to seeing to the needs of Mrs. Sheldon, who was sight-impaired. Her death left him somewhat diminished. However, he remained sharp as could be and he had fascinating stories of Fort Wayne in mid-century.
My regret is that I didn't make the time to record some of the elder Mr. Sheldon's store of stories. I had intended to capture some of his recollections for an oral history; I thought I had more time.
You see, he was an organizer of the Fort Wayne Chautauqua speakers. He and a few others would make arrangements to bring a wide range of prominent lecturers to town. Mr. Sheldon was sought after as a master of ceremonies and speaker in his own right and was quite well-known in Fort Wayne.
He even had sought office as a nominee for state representative in the 1930's - not a time of great success for Republicans, though. Mr. Sheldon still had a keen sense of politics into his '90's; evidenced one day when he gave a reporter a favorable quote about me.
There came the time when the elder Mr. Sheldon knew that his ability to stay in him own home was shrinking. At a time when Judge Sheldon and other family members were out of town, arrangements had been made to have Mr. Sheldon stay in a residence wing of a nursing home for the period the family was traveling.
He remarked - after returning to his home after the short nursing home stay - that it was a nice enough place. However, with a nod to the reality that more women live to an advanced age than men, he finished his remark by saying that there just weren't many other men there with whom he could talk and smoke a cigar.
I can say that I listened to the elder Mr. Sheldon talk while he smoked a cigar. That's a why I know a little bit about how Judge Vern Sheldon became such a respected man and a fine jurist.
He was his father's son.