For those of you who have been lucky enough to call Custer County your home the last 10 years, your path would have met up with Ron Vernia and his wife, Colleen Coyne. With the megawatt smile, a fabulous head of hair and a unique sense of cowboy style, Ron Vernia was the neighbor always willing at a moment’s notice to lend a hand. He was the man with his own brand of love and orneriness. And his life reads like chapters from an adventure series.
Born on Sept. 4, 1943, in Indiana Ron spent his childhood in Long Beach, California, where he fell in love with the water, woodworking and athletic activities.
In his early twenties, he moved to Hawaii to surf; then vacationed in Sun Valley, where his attention was diverted to snow. The snow called him back and he threw himself into skiing and becoming a patrol member. Many people will remember Ron from his days of service at the Duchin Room or the Ore House.
Meanwhile, Ron owned and operated a dog sled with 18 huskies. He trained the “Thunderpaws Express” team in Elkhorn, gave rides and contemplated the Iditarod. A seasonal change took him back to the water, and this time it was sailing on Alturas. It was enough of a lure for him to pick up his carpenter bag and head to the Caribbean. He hired out as a ship’s carpenter, repairing and revising seaworthy vessels. His reliability earned him enough trust to be named a captain.
Now, off to Arizona to build high-end homes and train as a competitive runner. Word got out about his carpentry skills and he was asked to return to Ketchum, where he served as construction manager for Copper Ridge and Hailey Hotel, to name a few.
But of course, back to athletic passions, and now it included competitive road biking. In 2003, he met his match in athletic training, Colleen Coyne. They were married in 2006 at Salvatore’s Castle while on a road-biking trip through Italy.
Ten years ago, Ron turned his energies toward a parcel of land on the East Fork of the Salmon River where Colleen had staked out her future retreat. From a sheepherder’s wagon, they built their “Horse Heaven” Ranch. Here, the two of them cultivated their love of horses and adopted two wild horses from the Challis Roundup.
His ancestry lays claim to some Native American blood, which explains his respect for nature, animals, sacred artifacts, and reincarnation’s blessings. He believed in every person’s right to self-worth and self-esteem as long as it was reciprocated.
Ron is survived by his brother, Jerry Vernia; nephew, Mike Vernia; niece, Jennifer Bauchum; and wife, Colleen Coyne, with Zena #2 at her side. He leaves Gray (Ronnie’s Boy), Crescent, Candy, Savannah, Santana, and Gitano to watch over her. He joins his four-legged family of Bell, Kiona, Clayton, and Zena #1
Ron and Colleen’s favorite song of inspiration was Nickelback’s, If Today Was Your Last Day. Sometimes the melody and powerful lyrics aren’t loud enough to drown out the noise in your head. Ron passed on December 16, 2020.
“The hands of time are never on your side.
You can’t rewind a moment in this life.
Live each moment like your last,
And never too late to shoot for the stars.”
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Challis Wild Love Preserve.