Vernon “Vern” W. Bishop, 81, of Onaway, died Thursday, September 23, 2021 at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. One of five children born to Willard and Eunice (Barnby) Bishop, he was born in Tuscarora Township May 2, 1940. He married Cynthia Sue Beaudry October 22, 1971 in Tower.
A farrier, by trade, Vern’s career was launched by necessity when he learned to trim and shoe his own horses’ hooves because no one in the area did that type of work. A fellow horse owner noticed the shoes on Vern’s horse and inquired who did the work that led to Vern’s first client and a new career. Vern’s client list grew quickly including dude ranches, individual horse owners, and stables on Mackinac and Beaver Islands. Being a farrier suited Vern well as he had a special way with horses and with people. Through his many years in the business he met a lot of nice folks and traveled to some interesting places.
Vern’s love of horses definitely shaped most of his life. Besides being a farrier, Vern worked guiding photography safaris on horseback through elk country that eventually led to his off-season work, guided elk hunts from horseback in the Pigeon River Forest. Passionate about his work, Vern enjoyed being outdoors in what he considered to be the most beautiful country he had ever seen and was able to share it with people who might never get to see it any other way. He knew the Pigeon River Country better than his own backyard; he knew and loved every hardwood ridge and every sandy hill thanks to those “big deer” leading him to all corners of their 700 square miles of habitat. A skilled guide with intimate knowledge of the terrain, he had great success with hunters. as well as those armed with cameras. He guided in all sorts of weather with all sorts of folks. About halfway through a ride there would be time for building a fire to warm-up, some lunch for hungry bellies, and time for spinning tales of past rides through elk country. Through his many years of guiding, Vern’s hunters have bagged record-book bulls and cows. Somewhat of a celebrity, Vern and his Pigeon River Country tours have been featured in numerous publications and on “Michigan Outdoors.” He was a lifetime member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and president of the Straits Area Chapter.
Vern loved everything about horses and the outdoors. He loved camping out under the stars, hunting, fly-fishing, and campfires. He loved old country and gospel music. He wasn’t Johnny Cash, he was Vern Bishop, but he could pick a guitar and croon a tune with the best of them. A “real cowboy,” he was a wrangler, a rodeo star, and was known to wrestle a steer a time or two. Blessed with the gift of gab, he loved to joke, could strike-up conversations easily, and had countless friends. Children were drawn to him and held a special place in his heart. He was a salt of the earth guy who was humble in every sense of the word. He loved God, his church, and his family. Vern was a longtime member of Tower Baptist Church and in more recent years a member of Indian River Baptist Church.
Vern Bishop, “The Man, The Myth, The Legend” was Onaway’s version of a “mountain man.” He possessed the skills of an outdoor survivalist and had a vast knowledge of the critters that roamed the forests and the fish that swam the brooks and streams of northern Michigan. Last Thursday, September 23, 2021, Vern, with his signature cowboy hat perched upon his head, trotted through the gates of heaven upon the back of a sure-footed horse. He will be sadly missed by his son, Scott Bishop (Judy Tribisondi) of Onaway; daughters, Kathy Johnston of Onaway, Shannon Courtney of East Helena, Montana and Wendy (Donnie) Lee of Mikado; grandchildren, James, Jessica, Alysenand Montana “Tanner”; seven great-grandchildren; and granddogs, Chase, Tucker and Baby Girl. Vern also leaves his sister, Mary Bishop and a brother, Lyle (Stephanie) Bishop, both of Onaway.
Vern was preceded in death August 28, 2021 by his wife of nearly 50 years, Cindy Bishop; a son-in-law, Dean Johnston; a brother, Jerry Bishop; an infant sister, Kaye; and his parents.
Visitation was held at Chagnon Funeral Home until the time of the funeral service Saturday, October 2. The Rev. Jeff Gwilt officiated. Vern’s final resting place is at Tower at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Those planning an expression of sympathy please consider a donation in memory of Vern to his family to help with final expenses.