Vergil Melvin Pinckney

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.

Print Obituary

32 Messages to “Vergil Melvin Pinckney

Print Messages
Ed and Dona Powell
January 7, 2021 at 11:52 pm

We go way back with Verg, to Jr. Hi days – probably longer than anyone! A good friend for more than 80 years. High school, college housemates and shared love of Spartan football and basketball. A big piece of my life will be missing! Our sympathies to the family, especially Cindy who has kept us updated, and Bob who we got to know when he brought Verg for visits. Our love and prayers during these sad days.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 10, 2021 at 10:57 pm

Thank you Ed and Dona. Dad shared so many great stories with us from those days. He enjoyed your friendship so much.

Reply
Ben Kudwa
January 8, 2021 at 4:17 pm

Annette and I were fortunate to have met Vergil through his good friends Ed and Dona Powell. We had seats at Spartan football and basketball games together. We met Jean and several members of their family. He was a wonderful man who put family first. He will always be remembered for the Verg’s second half basketball rule. It was simple, the team that scored first 8 points after the half would win the game. We had so many wonderful conversations about his rule, basketball, football, family, school and MSU. Our condolences to Verg’s family. It was clear to us that you were always first to him.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 10, 2021 at 10:58 pm

Haha, Ben. I had forgotten about that basketball rule although I know I have heard it invoked before. Thank you for sharing.

Reply
Wanda Plough
January 8, 2021 at 6:13 pm

Vergil was such a wonderful man, loved conversations with him at family gatherings, he had the best smile for every one he greeted, before covid Tabitha & I visited him a couple times at his apartment. I’m so glad I got to know him over the years, he is already missed.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 10, 2021 at 11:00 pm

Thank you so much, Wanda.

Reply
Maxine Henning
January 8, 2021 at 8:45 pm

He was a wonderful uncle and I was blessed to have him in my life. He was a mentor and helped me choose my career in teaching. I have so many memories starting with going to help out over Christmas vacation when they lived in Adrian and I was twelve to him cooking my husband and I breakfast when we visited and he was 90! He was special. Love to all the family.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 11, 2021 at 7:50 pm

Thanks for sharing Maxine. I’m having a hard time thinking of you as a 12-year-old with them. 😉 And I still want to hear some memories from your Alaskan cruise with Dad and Aunt Vonna.
Love to you!

Reply
Denise and Dennis Kelley
January 9, 2021 at 7:46 am

He was such a wonderful, caring amazing person. I had the honor of being able to call Vergil a friend. It takes an amazing person to put your heart into a neighborhood that you do not even live in. This is what he did for the Association for the Bingham Community (ABC). As a 23 year resident and as the ABC board president, It was a great adventure to work with Vergil and all of his energy he brought to each and every event or problem we faced. ABC was not the only group that he shared his passion for volunteerism with. He will be missed by so many people. To his family, please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time of saying goodbye.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 10, 2021 at 11:02 pm

Thank you! Dad was a great advocate for the neighborhood!

Reply
Diane Holt
January 9, 2021 at 10:20 am

Uncle Verg was an example of kindness and honesty. He never stoped learning or listening to new thoughts and opinions. I never heard him say a disparaging word about another person. He was a true joy to spend time with. He’s gotten his wings.

Reply
Jim pinckney
January 9, 2021 at 5:49 pm

Thanks Diane so many memories from Lake City and the farm with all the family , Cousin Jim

Reply
Mary Pollock
January 9, 2021 at 5:07 pm

Vergil was the director of the Office of Children and Youth Services at the Department of Social Services when I worked there in 1979 – 1980 as the department’s Affirmative Action Officer. He was legendary there for his management style, diplomacy, commitment, knowledge and a bunch of other good traits of leadership. I “rediscovered” him in 2010 when he was Lansing State Employee Retirees Association Chapter Secretary and I became the Legislative Representative. Frankly, it was humbling to be in the same group with such an admirable person. He was just great in supporting organizations and groups to achieve laudable goals. He touched so many lives in positive ways. I so wish whatever formula was used to raise and nurture him could be spread throughout the world.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 10, 2021 at 11:04 pm

Thank you Mary for sharing your memories. I know Dad enjoyed the SERA gatherings and keeping in touch with everyone.

Reply
Larry Pinckney
January 9, 2021 at 8:16 pm

Uncle Vergil was a special man and I feel so fortunate that I had time to spend talking and listening to him. He and my mother had so much fun together. He was special to the Pinckney family and he will be missed by family and his many friends

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 11, 2021 at 7:51 pm

Thanks for sharing Larry! Your mom is special to us, too!

Reply
Bruce Haskell
January 10, 2021 at 8:51 am

I remember Verge from my very young days at Pilgrim Church. He was a stalwart who became good friends with my parents Ted and Bobbie Haskell. He will always be remembered fondly by my sisters and I. When my mother lived in Independence Village he visited and always was a ray of sunshine for her. I’ll remember his willingness to help others in whatever way he could. He will truly be missed.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 11, 2021 at 7:42 pm

Thank you for sharing your memories Bruce. One of the reasons he chose to move to Independence Village I think, was because he enjoyed his visits there so much to your mom and others.

Reply
Bill and Kay Yandian
January 10, 2021 at 10:28 am

Jim
Sorry to hear of your father’s passing
Our thoughts are with you and your family
Bill and Kay Yandian

Reply
James Pinckney
January 13, 2021 at 1:34 pm

Thanks Bill and Kay

Reply
Janet Chegwidden
January 10, 2021 at 2:06 pm

I loved this man! I had the honor of meeting him when he joined me to work for children’s health equity and access and Action of Greater Lansing. We continued working together in support of the Davies Project. He will be missed but always remembered.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 10, 2021 at 11:05 pm

Thank you Janet! The Davies Project was one of Dad’s favorites. — and Action of Greater Lansing, too.

Reply
Lisa Soulliere
January 11, 2021 at 10:08 am

Vergil was an absolute joy to work with as part of the Michigan Conference United Church of Christ VISION, Inc. I worked with Vergil for several years as part of the VISION Board of Directors and the Annual Camp Talahi Golf Outing. He worked tirelessly (along side a few other Pilgrim Congregational UCC members including his daughter Cindy) to raise money for the Michigan Conference UCC – Camp Talahi & Retreat Center located in Howell, MI. His dedication to this annual event was very important to him; to see that money raised, provided numerous scholarships made available and provided for children who might otherwise not be able to attend Summer Camp. He also made sure that several families in the neighborhood of Pilgrim Congregational Church were able to attend by helping them sign up for Summer Camp. His generosity, his hard work, his faith and compassion were very evident with the work that he poured into making sure we had prizes for a silent auction, events at the course, and help with planning the banquet meal.

My condolences go out to his family and friends. He was a wonderful person. Rest in heaven my friend – your good work here will continue as that of an angel to those who love and cherish you.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 11, 2021 at 7:45 pm

Thank you for sharing Lisa. One of the items we found in dad’s desk was a golf score card from a hole in one that he had shot. It had ALWAYS been my hope to get my hole in one during a Talahi Golf Outing and win a car! 😉

Reply
Susan Britt
January 11, 2021 at 12:22 pm

So sorry for your loss. Your dad held a very special place in my heart. He was a great man.

Reply
Jim pinckney
January 11, 2021 at 2:29 pm

Thanks Sue.

Reply
Linda Fuller
January 11, 2021 at 2:43 pm

I did not know your Dad, although I met him quite a few times as a child in our home in East Lansing. He grew up with my father (Richard Pfister) and I believe they graduated from the old Merritt high school in the same year. Dad thought very highly of Vergil. He used to tell us of the many hunting, fishing, baseball and ice skating adventures they had together.
In my Dad’s diary, he reports several times that he and Vergil were riding the calves and got hurt, so some may have been misadventures! Dad’s diary also reports your Dad was the team captain of the “Merritt Tigers”. From the sound of things, they took their baseball very seriously. lol
Our Dad also enjoyed catching up with your father at class reunions. He considered him a
very good friend despite the fact that they did not see each other often. Dad spoke of him fondly up until the time of his passing in 2015. When I read your father’s obituary, I noticed there were many similarities between our fathers and thus I was inspired to offer my condolences to you. Both were hard working, honest and generous men who valued education and served their country in the U.S navy. How lucky we were to have fathers that
were gentlemen and were such fine examples for their children and grandchildren. And both
from rural, small town America. It was a different time.
I thought you might enjoy a brief remembrance of your father as my Dad would have remembered him. Dad always described him as a “fine man.” I know his loss leaves a big void in your family. Sending you blessings for comfort and peace.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 11, 2021 at 7:48 pm

Thank you for sharing Linda! I loved the stories of dad’s youthful misadventures 😉 Merritt High School reunions were an important part of each year. And EVERY time we drove down 55 and passed the turnoff to Merritt my dad would do the Merritt cheer. We were both lucky indeed in our fathers.

Reply
Judy Haskell Gearing
January 11, 2021 at 10:04 pm

I was so sorry to hear about Verge. As my brother said, he was a good friend of my parents, Ted and Bobbie Haskell—fellow Pilgrim Church members– and they would certainly want all of you to know how much he meant to them. I have lived away from Lansing for over 40 years, but during visits home, I remember fondly the times seeing him in church or as he visited Mom. Energetic and upbeat, I know his visits were always a bright spot for her. My heartfelt sympathy to all of you in the loss of a very special man.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 12, 2021 at 8:26 pm

Thank you for sharing Judy! Your mom and dad were special to me too!

Reply
David Knaggs
January 12, 2021 at 8:44 am

Vergil and my father, Lewis Knaggs, were great friends and close colleagues for many years. They were upper level administrators in different areas of delinquency services in Michigan Children’s Services. At that time their overall Office covered Foster Care, Adoption, Protective Services, and a variety of preventive and supportive services for families in addition to delinquency.
My first memory of meeting Vergil was in the Fall of 1971. I was given a field placement as a Social Work Graduate student in their office. I met Vergil durning my tour of the Office when we stepped into the middle of an enthusiastic argument between he and my father regarding some area where their responsibilities overlapped Both were powerful men, and both enthusiastic in their commitment to the care of children and the protection of Michigan citizens.
After graduation I worked in the same office, in its various iterations, for 24 years, as Director of Planning for Children’s Services among other jobs.
The years which followed my initial tour were complex and challenging for both men, with major changes in State services. They were respected and appreciated for providing stable, thoughtful direction durning times of significant stress.
Vergil made a significant contribution to Michigan’s child services. Whether he saw them directly or indirectly his strength, commitment, hard work, and dedication made a difference for thousands of children. His life mattered, and so did he.

Reply
Cindy Hudson
January 12, 2021 at 8:31 pm

Great story David – an “enthusiastic” argument between them probably would’ve sent me running in the other direction! Was table pounding for emphasis involved? ? You spent a lot of time in that discipline making a difference too. I’m sure both of them were proud of all you accomplished.

Reply

Please Sign The Guestbook

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *