Vernon W. Colby, Journalist
By Patrik Johnson
Hampton Union, Tuesday, February 13, 1990
NORTH HAMPTON -- "Let's do some dancing" was Vern Colby's credo. He danced to the music of words, and his partners were the many towns and villages of Rockingham County.
But last Friday, February 9, 1990, Vern Colby's dance was done.
He died of a sudden illness at Exeter Hospital at 71 years old.
A World War II veterans, Colby had always found himself in words. He published his own paper in the Army, and during his last 15 years in the Seacoast he wrote a column for Seacoast Scene and in later years for Hampton Union and the Exeter News-Letter.
"I hope I never tire of facts odd or enlightening about our dear old towns," he wrote in one column from 1987.
He never did. In 1988, Colby was left a widower by his second wife, Roberta "Bobby" Craig Colby, a librarian for 30 years at the North Hampton Public Library. Shortly after her death, he urged through newspapers notices that friends give gifts in her name to the library.
When asked by library trustees how the money should be used, Colby suggested "bulking up the New Hampshire collection a little." said Katherine Southworth, a trustee of the library.
Colby was looking forward to the dedication of the bulked-up library this spring, Southworth said.
Through his hours at the library and "through a lot of connections" Colby crafted his fact-full, anecdotal columns. Interspersed were stories of his own on growing up on family.
"I will not leave you with a poor picture of Bill Colby, for he was a grand man and good to me." Colby wrote in one column, after telling how the elder Colby insisted that in a rite of Yankee manhood, Vern play horseshoes with him and the older men, eventually leaving Vern with a dull taste for those manly games. "From him I learned to walk the woods with something approaching wisdom."
His writings often blended from the contemplative to the historic in one column, the dark town name of Madbury brought to Colby visions of "a fictional village in Old England ... a place where an Agatha Christie detective like Miss Marple might solve a dark mystery -- or where ancient rites of witchcraft are practiced under a midnight moon."
The column then told of the real Madbury of "Pleasant people and pretty places."
"He knew a lot of the old timers, and he had written for a long, long time," said Mary Herbert, wife of Robert "Buzz" Herbert, a former editor at Rockingham County Newspapers, for whom Colby worked. In his later years, when his eyes were failing, Colby dictated his columns to his wife, and when she passed away, he would often call the columns in on the telephone.
"He did try to keep going," even though his health was failing him, Herbert said.
Born in Newton in 1918, Colby was married twice and was twice a widower. His first wife, Joanne (Madden) Colby, bore three children: Peter of Maitland, Fla.; Timothy of Providence, R.I., and Steven of Kensington, all who survive. Joanne Colby died in 1983.
He married Bobby Craig Colby shortly thereafter. He is survived by her son, Peter Craig of Green, Maine.
Other family members are his brother, Richard, three grandchildren, and several cousins.
The Brewitt Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. There will be no calling hours. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
The family is asking that memorial donations be made to the North Hampton Public Library, just as Colby asked for his wife.
"To some degree, we're guided by gifts received," Colby wrote in a column shortly after Christmas 1986. "No such glamour for me, no more."