James Vernon, 81, of Morton, Illinois died Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois.
Vernon was awarded the Carnegie Medal in 2017 for saving 17 children and four women from assault on Oct. 13, 2015, in Morton, Illinois.
Vernon, then a 75-year-old retired information technology specialist, was teaching chess in the conference room of a public library when a 19-year-old man, holding a knife in each hand, entered the classroom, shouting.
The assailant stopped near a table where children were playing chess. Vernon, who was a short distance away, confronted the assailant, distracting him, while the women and children exited the room to safety. The assailant swung one of the knives at Vernon, who raised his left arm to deflect it. Vernon forced the assailant onto a table and subdued him, causing him to release his grip on the knives. Police arrived and apprehended the assailant. Vernon underwent surgery for multiple lacerations to his left hand.
Vernon was born on Oct. 25, 1939 to Herbert and Wilma Vernon of Peoria. In 1966, Vernon and Hanna Droell married in Germany.
Vernon served in the U.S. Army for four years, serving in Germany, and working for the U.S. Government in Berlin. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1967 and went on to work for Caterpillar Tractor, Inc., for 41 years before retiring in 2001.
He enjoyed playing golf and chess, and volunteered at local grade schools. Vernon was a member of Morton Community United Church of Christ.
He was preceded in death by his sister and one infant son. Vernon is survived by his wife; brother Rex Vernon; son Paul Vernon; and four grandchildren.