LANSING – Vergil M. Pinckney, 94, was born April 8, 1926, in McBain, Michigan, into a loving, supportive family that included his sister Edna, and three brothers, Floyd (Bud), George and Robert, and his parents Verle and Bessie, who instilled a sense of pride and self-esteem in their children. He died peacefully at the hospital on Jan. 6, 2021.
He is survived by his children, sons Stephen (Elle Marsh), James (Diana), Robert (Tamie Jo) and daughter Cynthia (Jimmy) Hudson, all of Lansing; and son Richard (Laura) of Grand Rapids; 26 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Jean, who he shared 53 years with. He was also predeceased by all of his siblings and parents. Sisters-in-law Kitty Pettit of Louisville, Ky., and Vonna Pinckney of Grand Rapids also survive, as well as many nieces and nephews. In later years, Vergil and Vonna had a wonderful time together traveling, visiting friends and relatives in Lake City and around the country, and especially spending time in the winter in Gulf Shores, Ala. They had a special friendship that brought joy to their families.
Shortly after his graduation from Merritt Agricultural High School at age 17 in 1943, he was inducted into the Navy as a Naval Aviation Cadet. He was in pre-flight school and college during his service. After the war, he attended Michigan State University and was a founding member of Ulrey House (an off-campus housing co-op). He met Jean Marion Lawson in a class and they were married on March 19, 1949. They had a busy life of children, sports, church and work. Vergil and Jean were proud supportive MSU alum. His family always said that he bled green and white.
While still in school, Vergil became a teacher/coach at the Boys Vocational School in Lansing. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at MSU. Vergil also served as educational director at the Adrian Training School for Girls. He returned to Lansing BTS as superintendent and also oversaw the building of the W.J. Maxey School at Whitmore Lake. Eventually Vergil became director of all youth residential care facilities for the state of Michigan, retiring in 1985.
In retirement, Vergil served as director of the Michigan Children’s Association for public and private children’s agencies for two years along with being a consultant on Juvenile Justice Issues from 1980-1990. While active in National Superintendent’s Conferences, National Association of Juvenile Agencies and the American Correctional Association, Vergil and Jean attended annual conferences in many major U.S. cities making for exciting travel and creating long-lasting friendships.
Vergil was a hard worker and a doer. He could be stern and stubborn but as one granddaughter said, it was because he wanted things done right. He was unbelievably generous with his time and money. He believed in helping others and did it without fanfare or any expectation of thanks. He was a man of faith who believed deeply that we should help and love our neighbors.
Vergil was a faithful member of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, serving in many leadership roles. Many remember his work in organizing the church’s Chicken Dinner nights. He was a strong advocate for Bingham School where he helped to start a mentoring program, and the ABC neighborhood organization. An active volunteer into his 90s, he delivered Meals On Wheels, participated in ACTION of Greater Lansing, and was a driver for The Davies Project.
After selling his Lansing home, Vergil moved to Independence Village in East Lansing. He enjoyed meeting people and making new friends there. And he especially appreciated the wonderful staff members that helped make the Village such a friendly and welcoming place to be during his two years there.
Vergil believed in lifelong learning. He continued to read, follow politics and support causes he believed in. He was such an example to his children in so many ways, but especially in being willing to change his opinion as he learned and grew. He was a true gentleman.
One of his favorite projects is The Davies Project, which provides transportation and non-medical support for local families facing serious, long-term health challenges with a child. He would be honored if you wished to remember him by donating to help provide this very important service. The Davies Project, 230 Bingham, Suite 100, Lansing, MI 48912.
The family is being served by Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel, where a link to a recorded memorial service will be shared soon to remember Vergil.