Remembering a fighter

Feb. 23, 2013 @ 02:19 PM

Page Vernon only spent three years on the bench for Orange and Chatham counties before cancer forced her resignation in 2011.

Long before that, though, she had been a champion for at-risk youth, schools and law students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For so much of her life, she fought for those who couldn’t always fight for themselves.

After stepping down as district court judge, she fought for her own life until she could fight no more.

She died on Wednesday at age 60 at her home, surrounded by her husband and friends.

In 2008, as she campaigned for the bench, the lawyer and guardian ad litem aimed to keep kids in classrooms and out of courtrooms through early intervention, parent training and mentoring. She wanted to make partners of churches, schools and police to provide positive youth activities. She called for more funding for programs to combat substance abuse, domestic violence and juvenile crime.

A self-proclaimed “social progressive,” she also worked in private practice while volunteering in the community. She helped out in schools, served on nonprofit boards, mentored at-risk youth and started a foundation to provide grants to public school teachers.

In a candidate questionnaire with IndyWeek.com in 2008, Vernon shared what she considered to be critical judicial issues in Orange and Chatham counties:

“The most important issues facing our district courts are prevalent family violence, lack of sufficient mental health and substance abuse programs, lack of sufficient support services and resources for families in crisis, increasing teenage pregnancy and school dropout rates, growing gang influence, and decreasing funding for juvenile resources and services.” 

She might easily have said much the same thing about Durham – and could have, given that she handled some family court cases here.

Chief Resident District Court Judge Joe Buckner, in an interview with Beth Velliquette of The Herald-Sun, offered fond and respectful memories of his friend and former colleague: “Judge Vernon was the consummate district court judge. [She] was hard-working, fair, firm and compassionate. She had an extra special spot in her heart for children facing challenges. It was the highest privilege to serve with her.”

We appreciate Vernon’s fighting spirit and we’re optimistic that others may carry on in her stead to champion those who might otherwise get lost in the system.