Vernell L. (Stephens) Haugen was born in Decorah, Iowa, to Melvin and Josephine
Stephens. She graduated from Decorah High School in 1946 and Luther College in 1950s
with a degree in English speech and a minor in religion and sociology. Following six
years as a social worker, she received her master's degree in social work from the
University of Minnesota in 1958. She continued to work in this field until Aug. 26, 1962,
when she married Merlin Haugen. They subsequently made their home in Cedar Rapids.
Vernell and Merlin lived in Cedar Rapids from 1962 until 1994, where they raised their
two children. While her children were growing up, Vernell kept busy as a housewife, a
Girl Scout leader, a Boy Scout leader and was very active in her church, First Lutheran
Church of Cedar Rapids. Once her children reached their teen years, Vernell went back
into the work force, beginning work as a cafeteria worker at Kennedy High School,
where she would occasionally treat her son and his friends to a free ice cream cone. She
later participated in the 1980 U.S. Census as a census taker, then joined Frank Magid
Associates as a telephone surveyor and later as a supervisor and editor. Prior to
retirement in 1993, she took another job as a proofreader with a local publishing
In August 1994, Vernell and Merlin relocated back to their hometown of Decorah and
moved into a home with Vernell's sisters, Esther (Stephens) Miller ‘37 and Evelyn
Stephens. While in Decorah, she reunited with old friends and was active in Decorah
Lutheran Church. She volunteered at Winneshiek County Hospital in the gift shop as well
as in the mailroom at the Vesterheim Norwegian Museum. She was presented with a
State of Iowa Volunteer of the Year Award for her work with the Iowa Work Force while
Vernell moved to Eugene, Ore., in 2005, to be closer to her daughter and three of her
grandchildren. She found a warm and wonderful group of friends at Cascade Manor
Retirement Community, where she made her home. At Cascade Manor, she was involved
with the committee on emergency preparedness, the welcoming committee and in
introducing the game of Rummikub to many of the residents who have taken up her
enthusiasm for the game and now play it on a regular basis.
Vernell was preceded in death by her husband, Merlin; and her sisters, Esther (Stephens)
Miller ‘37 and Evelyn Stephens.
She is survived by a son, Eric Haugen (Susan) of Ocoee, Fla.; a daughter, Dr. Julie
Haugen (Tom Brase) of Eugene, Ore.; five grandchildren, Alexandra Haugen, Connor
Haugen, Claire Brase, Daniel Brase and Kate Brase; as well as a sister, Marcella Norgard
of Cedar Rapids.
A memorial service was held Jan. 19, at Emmaus Lutheran Church in Eugene. Interment
will be at Union Prairie Cemetery in Decorah. Memorial contributions may be made in
Vernell's name to the American Cancer Society or to Holden Village in Chelan, Wash.
Arrangements entrusted to Musgrove Family Mortuary. Please access the obituary and
you are invited to sign the guest book at www.musgroves.com.