Vernon Emery Binion, Jr.

Date of Birth

October 3, 1947

Date of Death

September 5, 2011

City of Death

Santa Barbara

October 3,1947 – September 5, 2011

Vernon Emery Binion, Jr., 63, a long-time resident of Santa Barbara, died suddenly on Monday, September 5, 2011 while scuba diving off the north coast of Anacapa Island. Mr. Binion suffered an apparent cardiac arrest as he was returning to the dive boat Spectre at about 2:30 PM. He was airlifted by a sheriff’s helicopter rescue team to Ventura County Medical Center and died at the hospital.

Vern was born on October 3, 1947 in West Palm Beach, FL. He was the son of the late Vernon Emery Binion, Sr. and Mary Frances Goodell of West Palm Beach. He attended the US Naval Academy and the University of California Santa Barbara, earning an engineering degree and completing much work towards a masters degree in engineering. After serving in the Navy, he worked as an engineer and Project Manager for Delco, where he was part of the team working on the M-1 tank. He later joined Raytheon in Santa Barbara where he led a team working on various defense contracts, including the Patriot missile deployed during the 1st Gulf war. Following his work at Raytheon, Vern established an international business selling various health products. While international in scope, he based the business largely out of the Philippines, where he made many friends which he considered extended family. Known as “Tito Vern,” he was committed to helping young people, particularly Jayson and Leslie Cruz and Regina Bundang, to further their education and expand their activities to include music and sports. Throughout this time he maintained his primary residence in Santa Barbara.

Vern’s education included 11 years of classical piano training. His talent at a young age resulted in his selection to perform in several solo piano recitals while in junior high and high school. His love of music continued throughout his life – whether classical, country, rock or his particular favorite, opera. His gifts to others frequently incorporated this passion and talent: he provided instruments and piano lessons to children in the Philippines, and gave a solo piano performance at his younger sister’s wedding celebration.

The bonds forged during his naval service were important to Vern. He enjoyed reunions and trips with the “band of brothers” from his 33rd Company at the US Naval Academy, who remained important friends throughout his life. Vern also regularly represented his father, a 1942 graduate of the Naval Academy, at the Class of ’42 reunions following his father’s death in 1978.

Vern was a member of the Bodhi Path Buddhist Center of Santa Barbara, whose members he embraced and where he found fellowship and spiritual growth. Working with their public relations activities, he was a practitioner who was always energetic, supportive and dedicated in his effort to raise awareness of their programs and teachings. The Bodhi Path Center held a service for Vern on Sunday, September 11th attended by members and friends from various parts of the state.

Vern was an experienced diver of over 30 years. He was scheduled to leave on September 14th for a month-long trip to the Philippines where he planned a 2 week dive trip similar to one he completed last summer. A highlight from that 2010 dive was swimming side-by-side with a large sea turtle off the coast of Moalboal in Cebu, Philippines. Vern recently became interested in underwater photography, and the pictures he took with his underwater camera during the dive on September 5th vividly recorded his last day of life.

Without a doubt, the most important thing to Vern was family and friends. He was generous and kind, made a point of remembering key events in the lives of others, and appreciated and accepted people as they are, regardless of education, background or other circumstances. His zest for life inspired him to travel to visit friends around the globe, creating memories through his carefree antics and recording those memories through his love of photography.

Vern is survived by two sisters, Chris Button and Tracy Wiest of Northern Virginia, and a brother Billy Binion of Richmond, VA. He is also survived by seven nieces and nephews: Philip, Dane, Matthew, Michael, Molly, Sydney and Billy, who always looked forward to having fun with their uncle during his regular visits to the east coast for vacations and holidays.

Vern was a genuine dharma friend to people all over the world, had a great joy for life and ultimately died doing what he loved. His loving and exuberant presence will be sorely missed by his friends and family. As stated by a longtime friend: “He died the good death. Nothing more or better can be said about a man’s life.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions in Vern’s memory be sent to the Bodhi Path Buddhist Center, 30 West Mission Street #7, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. The family will hold a Celebration of Life in Santa Barbara in late October. Additional information can be found by emailing or calling (703) 569-7531.


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