Remembering a hero from our hometown

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

"He was my hero." With those four healt-felt words, Ye (Seng) Wilson spoke this morning of her great admiration for Vern Meints, a McCook business and civic leader who died Monday morning following an extended illness.

Ye is well-acquainted with Vern's kindnesses. In 1976, Vern and his wife, Nadine, served as sponsors for the Seng family to come to the United States from a refugee camp in Thailand.

"He was so good to us," Ye said. "He spent four hours with us each night to tell us about life in this country." There were 12 in the Seng family, who were originally from Cambodia. The family included Ye's parents and 10 children. The parents and Ye still live in McCook, and the other children have moved on to jobs in California, Arizona, Kansas and other Nebraska communities.

Vern's mentoring was especially helpful to Ye. She quickly learned the cleaning business, and in 1983 -- at age 23 -- she became part owner with the Meintses of Modern Cleaners. She later purchased the Meints' interest and is the owner of the business today.

Others in McCook are indebted to Meints. He was McCook's mayor for many years, and was an innovator in business. Among his ventures was joining Walt Sehnert and Bill Corrick in Semeco, a group which at one time owned KICX radio.

"He was on his way to being governor when he was hit by heart disease," Sehnert said. But even the heart trouble didn't stop Vern, who remained positive through many treatments and procedures.

"I never heard him say a bad word about anybody," Ye said. "And he was so friendly. He never met a stranger." Until several years ago, he continued to greet customers at Modern Cleaners, dispensing advice and philosophy to the many who stopped in.

Vern Meints was a man of faith, serving key roles at the Peace Lutheran Church. And he lived his faith on a day-to-day basis, uplifting the McCook community with a lifetime of service and good works. We are a better place because Vern Meints lived his life in this area.

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