Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In Memory of Vernon Isaac, May 25, 1948 - April 10, 2009

From L to R: Michael Sanders, Won Park, Vernon Isaac
Photo by Susan Dugan, OUSA 2002

Wendy Zeichner writes to the OUSA mailing list:
It is with great sadness that I announce that Vernon Isaac (our own
Metrocard modular man) passed away last week (from lung cancer) in
South Carolina with his family by his side.

The family is having a Memorial Service in New York on May 16, 2009 at 5pm.
It will be held at:
Garden of Prayer Cathedral Church
1874 Washington Avenue (off Tremont Avenue)
Bronx, NY 10457

I did not know Vernon well; but I knew him as soon as he entered a room, at my first OUSA Convention. He has the kind of presence and personality that floods a room..

For the benefit of those who did not have the good fortune to meet Vernon, and for the sake of those of us who fondly do remember him and who will miss his physical presence at OUSA in June, I pieced together some videoclips I took primarily from OUSA 2005. I'm sorry it's choppy, but in 2005, the digital camera I was using could only take 10 second clips:

As brief as it is, I hope it gives the viewer a good sense of Vernon's personality. Vernon is the kind of person one does not soon forget. He has this innate charm and ability to make instant friends. Following are email comments from the OUSA Members List (to be updated):

I met Vernon for the first time in New York 2002. He was very friendly and kind. We will all miss him very much.

Won Park

Vernon was a very origami active person. I met him several times in all the New York Conventions I have been attendded, also in the last Charlotte Festival in 2002 and the last time at the LIFE Festival in Long Island in 2007.

His death was a very big lost to the origami world, because sometimes you remember more a person for his origami charisma than for the other things he did. He likes to be with the people teaching his modular models.

Jose Tomas Buitrago

Wow. I'm so sorry to hear this. I had no idea that Vernon was ill.
This is very sad news.

Vernon was a strong presence at every New York origami convention.
I know of many first-time convention-goers who were befriended by Vernon
and delighted by his enthusiasm and talents at teaching.

I, for one, continue to use a teaching tip that I learned from him:
Whenever I teach a model and we complete a step that has to be done
on the other side of the paper or on the other half of the paper (like
a cupboard fold), then Vernon would say, "And you know that last move we
did? We liked it so much, that we'll do it again!" I love that line,
and I think
of Vernon whenever I use it.

--- Tom Hull

I am heartbroken. I was one of those first-timers at the convention and at
NYC Folding Sundays that Vernon befriended. His pure joy in both origami
and life was always infectious. I could never talk to Vernon without ending
up with a grin on my face. Is there a way that we could establish an annual
convention award (no prize, just the recognition and appreciation) for
someone who personally contributes the most to nurturing the origami
community by taking others under his or her wings?

I would be happy to help make this happen as my own way to remember this
wonderful man.

Naomi Rodolitz

Seeing Vernon was one of those little things at
convention that I always looked forward to. He was always there with a
smile and a big bear hug, welcoming, funny and generous. I'll miss him
a great deal.

Anne LaVin

I didn't know Vernon very well. I don't know many of the folks I see
at convention very well (and my inability to attend regularly doesn't

The tapestry of the convention is woven from many threads; Vernon was
flamboyant presence and his thread will be missed for many reasons. I
too did not know he was ill, and I am very sad that I missed the
convention last year and another chance to see him.


Douglas Philips

I am deeply saddened to read that Vernon is no longer with us. I have met
him at many OUSA conventions. He was a master of Metro card modulars and
always so generous with his time and a supply of metro cards. My prayers are
with the family.

Ravi Apte

What was the name of the really long metro card creature he made? Was
it Jake the Snake?

He will be greatly missed. He was such a kind and generous man to us
out of town folks.

Lori Gregory

I think the award should be a Metro Card Jake the Snake, about six
feet long, as close to Vernon's height as possible. The recipient
shall wear the award as a boa during the ceremony and for the
remainder of the evening.

This represents not only Vernon's interest in modulars, but also his
presence, which, like a giant snake, was impossible to ignore.

Plus, it's pretty darned funny, and I guarantee he would appreciate it.

I volunteer to help fold and assemble the units. I think we could make
at least two to three years worth of awards during this year's
convention, particularly if we start early.

Rob Hudson, who misses Vernon's bawdiness terribly

One of my favorite convention memories is teaching Vernon Isaac how to
fold the modular Jitterbug, a model that was wildly popular a few
conventions ago. I was explaining that you had to "fold this edge to
the imaginary line between these points," and he looked at me with a
straight face and said, "but I don't HAVE an imaginary line there."
He was a genuinely funny man - how sad to hear that he's gone.

Scott Cramer

Photo by Michael Sanders, OUSA Convention 2007

Hi all,
Thanks so much for sharing your memories of Vernon (I laughed and
cried.) I plan to pull together everyone's remarks to send to
Vernon's family. I especially enjoyed the stories about Jake the
and I will see if we can arrange to have Jake make one more
Convention appearance.
/Wendy Zeichner

I will never forget, my first class at my first Origami convention
ever (in New York) and the teacher was Vernon.
Oddly, I am teaching an origami class today and was picking out models
to show the class and what comes out of the box, the same model, I
folded in that class.

Vernon will surely be missed. His personality and lively spirit will
be most missed at Origami Heaven festival, which he has religiously
attended and entertained several
attendees. I have uploaded some of his pictures (which captures so
beautifully who he truly was).

Please check his photos
(you dont need facebook account).

Shrikant Iyer

I met Vernon twice and liked him very much. He was very enthousiastic and was able to let everybody fold with the metro cards. He was a fun man. I am sorry he passed away, but I feel lucky to have met him.

I am happy to see all the reactions on this list and the initiative to create an award.

Best regards to his family and friends,

Paula Versnick from Holland.

I too knew him and liked him and looked
forward to seeing him at conventions and will miss him now that he's
gone. He was a remarkable (and remarkably outgoing) person, and he made
conventions more fun for a lot of people.

Michael Naughton

It was with deep shock and surprise to learn of Vernon's Death. We had no idea that he was sick.
Vernon had visited our house a few months back to attend a monthly origami meeting. He brought us a section of Jake the Snake made out of Japanese metro-cards. I had picked up some cards while in Japan. More were given to me by visitors and guests - what better place for them to live than with Vernon. Vernon said that he had decided to give up Jake. The last I remember was that Jake was over 53 feet.
We will bring the section to Origami Sunday tomorrow.
We had passed along the announcement to members of my local group, Vernon will be remembered fondly and missed by them as well. He showed up infrequently and larger than life; loud and boisterous and full of jokes.
Mark Kennedy - Arlene Gorchov

I too was very fond of Vernon. I guess I was sort of unaware
of what his presence contributed to the convention since I saw him at other
times in NY and he was always upbeat, fun to be with and greeted me with
open arms - literally - he was a great hugger. I can see as a first timer or
someone who only saw him once a year how his impact would be greater.

Jean Baden-Gillette

HI All
Vernon will always be a great person to know and will be missed.
I know I already miss him.
He touched a lot of people's minds and hearts.

Michael Verry

In 2001, my first convention, I met Vernon on the elevator between
classes. He was asking people about exchanging the state quarters
with the D mark on them for P marked quarters that he had. I was
interested in collecting these quarters so we introduced ourselves to
each other and from that point on at each convention we exchanged
quarters. Vernon was always the first person I would look for at the
convention because his smile and bear hugs were so welcoming. He
taught me one of his metrocard modulars. Being my first time to
create a modular, locking it together was a difficult task. He gently
took my hands and placed all the pieces in them and helped me lock the
last piece in.

This was the kind of person he was, kind and sincere to the last
"detail." I will miss him greatly.

Jennifer Gerring
Houston, TX

(Susumu Nakajima on the left, teaching the mouse cap)
Photo by Michael Sanders, OUSA Convention 2005


RONNIE said...

I want to thank everyone for their wonderful comments about Vernon. He was my brother and I miss him dearly. He will always have a place in my heart.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Thank you for commenting, Ronnie. Condolences for your loss.

We all miss him too; but we will keep him alive in our memories and in our hearts.

Robert C said...

I'm sorry to hear about the loss of Vernon. I met him back in June 2001, at my first convention with Origami USA. We exchanged phone numbers but I failed to keep in touch, my loss. He taught me the Metro Card unit model, he even gave me a pack of the metro cards.

I found him to be quite warm and very friendly, his passion for Origami was quite evident, he was diffently a people person. He will truely be missed. -Robert C. Smith