Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Vernon R. "Vern" Farnsworth

Four-term Massachusetts legislator Vern Farnsworth dies at 80

ST. PETERSBURG — If 80-percent of life really is just showing up, Vern Farnsworth had a head start on most people.

Mr. Farnsworth, a former Massachusetts legislator and a St. Petersburg civic leader, could be counted on to be where he said he would be on the dot.

"His big thing was to dress well, speak well and always be on time," said Connie Bladon, his daughter. "For him, it was showing respect."

Mr. Farnsworth, a Republican, won a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1964, serving a western portion of the state. He was proud of stopping cigarette advertising on television and for making it harder to cheat the welfare system.

He was re-elected three times. Mr. Farnsworth enjoyed campaigning and had mastered the art of the "mix and mingle," as he called it. In his free time he lectured on the Constitution or attended the theater or the opera.

Vernon R. Farnsworth was born in Springfield, Mass., April 18, 1934, and raised by a single mother. The Boys Club taught him to resolve disputes without getting into fistfights, his daughter said. Mr. Farnsworth later lived in Beverly Hills, Calif., with actor Wendell Corey, an uncle who played the police lieutenant alongside James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window, and other memorable roles with the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Jack Palance and Elvis Presley.

Mr. Farnsworth sang in nightclubs from a young age. "I think that's where he got his confidence," his daughter said.

He married Constance Drewry in 1956 and started a family. Mr. Farnsworth worked as a financial analyst, a career he maintained through his terms in the legislature. He was constantly interacting with people from all levels of society, from working class constituents to people at the highest levels of government.

Former U.S. Attorney General Elliott Richardson, one the few of President Richard Nixon's lieutenants to emerge unscathed by Watergate, was a close friend.

Massachusetts Gov. Francis Sargent later appointed Mr. Farnsworth to the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

His marriage ended in divorce after 26 years. Mr. Farnsworth moved to France in 1984 with Elise Morin, a native of Montreal whom he married in 1985. They later moved to Pinellas County.

He worked as a spokesman for Capitol Marketing Concepts in St. Petersburg and counseled consumers for the National Foundation for Debt Management. Mr. Farnsworth also served on the boards of WEDU-Ch. 3; Florida Blood Services Foundation; and the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. He and his wife were also members of the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College.

Bladon, 56, the executive director of Florida Hospital Foundation, said her father taught her to "be able to present yourself in front of people and also just really appreciate who people are and what they have to offer."

Mr. Farnsworth had been weakening from cancer and other health issues in recent weeks, but still was working out in the gym, his daughter said. He died at home under hospice care the morning of April 18, his 80th birthday.


Vernon R. "Vern" Farnsworth

Born: April 18, 1934

Died: April 18, 2014

Survivors: wife, Elise Morin; son, Jon Farnsworth; daughter, Connie Bladon; one granddaughter; and six stepchildren.

Four-term Massachusetts legislator Vern Farnsworth dies at 80 04/28/14 [Last modified: Monday, April 28, 2014 10:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. North Korean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will.

    A woman watches a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday,. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan's maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]
  2. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Samantha Bee on Florida felonies

    State Roundup

    Comedian Samantha Bee traveled to Florida, where she says "retirees and democracy go to die," to shed light on how the state makes it difficult for felons to regain the right to vote.

    Samantha Bee hosts Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. Bee portrayed some of Florida’s felonies as not so serious on her show.
  3. For some, Memorial Day comes around more than just once a year


    ST. PETERSBURG — It is shortly before nine on a Friday morning, and the heat is already approaching unbearable levels at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

    Iles carefully digs up the St. Augustine grass so that it will continue to grow when it is placed back on the gravesite. He tries not to disturb the root base.
  4. State budget uncertainty has school districts 'very concerned'


    While waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to approve or veto the Legislature's education budget, the people in charge of school district checkbooks are trying hard to find a bottom line.

    It has not been easy.

    The unsettled nature of Florida’s education budget has left school districts with questions about how they will make ends meet next year. []
  5. Ernest Hooper: Removing Confederate symbols doesn't eliminate persistent mindset

    Human Interest

    The debate has begun about removing a Confederate statue from outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse, and its removal is long overdue.

    Robert E. Lee Elementary, 305 E. Columbus Drive in Tampa, originally opened its doors in the early 1910s as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School. [Times file]