Biographical / Historical
Vernon Keith Torrence was born in McCune, Kansas, on November 18, 1921. After graduating from high school in Solomon, Kansas, Vernon entered Kansas Wesleyan University from which he graduated with honors in history in 1942. During his senior year he was the editor of the University's 1942 yearbook, the "Coyote." His pacifist beliefs were in place at least by his senior year as evidenced by the comments fellow students wrote in Vernon's copy of the yearbook. Vernon's father was a Methodist minister who also held anti war sentiments.
In September 1942 Vernon was drafted and joined the Civilian Public Service as a conscientious objector. His alternative service took him to Buck Creek, North Carolina, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Markleeville, California, under the auspices of the National Park and Forestry Service. In December 1943 he began work with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, serving in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. In March 1945 he walked out of Conscientious Objector's Camp # 98 in Arizona; two months later he was picked up, arraigned, and released on bond by the U.S. District Court. That fall Vernon received a notice of dismissal of his court case, and he took this to mean that his alternative service was now complete and began working for a construction company in Los Angeles. The government felt otherwise and declared him absent without leave.
In the summer of 1946 Vernon put his savings into American Express Travelers Checks and began hitchhiking to Kansas to visit his family. He never arrived. On August 27, 1956 a ranger found his body in rugged terrain in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, California, where Vernon had apparently fallen while hiking alone. The FBI, which had continued to search for Vernon until 1951, identified the body from the travelers checks. Vernon was buried in Minneapolis, Kansas, on October 13, 1956.