A mission to help people others ignore

“He loved them to his last breath,” the Pioneer Press’ Frederick Melo writes today in his fine obituary of George Verley, who spent his life in the company of the homeless, alcoholics, and the down-and-out.

Verley, 80, the former head of Union Gospel Mission, died Friday of liver cancer.

He and his wife took in 42 foster children, Melo writes, but he was skeptical of the role of government in helping people most try to avoid, keeping the Mission free of government support.

As a child he was beaten by his stepfather, seeking temporary shelter at the mission by cooking potatoes and eggs.

Interviewed at the time of his retirement in 2002, he recalled trying to justify his occasional shenanigans as a child to the mission’s notoriously strict director, Peter MacFarlane, who ran the mission from 1910 to 1957, or to his successor, the gentler Harold Mordh.

“I tried to sell the leadership that I was a victim of my stepfather,” Verley said.

“I’ll never forget their response: ‘You are responsible for your own future. You cannot use your stepfather as an excuse to not have a future or be less than you can be.’ We were never allowed to be victims.”