Britt Thomas Vaughn, Sr.

seal_armyThis month we are honored to say “Thank You” to another Veterans Home resident who proudly served our Country in the United States Armed Forces.

The year was 1952 and the wolf was barking at the door of the Vaughn household. Son, Britt, knew that it was time for him to help the family financially. Now a sophomore at Vashon High School, Britt’s investigation found few jobs available to a student – certainly not one that offered adult responsibilities and pay to a sixteen-year-old.

What to do? Tell a white lie, of course. A sports enthusiast in school, Britt was an athletic lad who could easily pass for seventeen or eighteen. The Army had always been his long-range plan, so why not give it a go now? Somehow, our young man cleared the record checks and started basic training. Then, one day, after returning to the barracks from field exercises, Britt was told to see the First Sergeant. As it turned out, there were no hard feelings. The Army discharged Britt Vaughn honorably, with full pay and the suggestion to come back next year.

And, so he did. After completing basic training, Britt went to Camp Chafee, Arkansas for artillery training. After a short time at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, Private Vaughn was posted to Germany where he served until his discharge in 1956.

Now a veteran looking for work, Britt realized that the job market hadn’t improved a whole lot since he entered military service. Now, however, he was a grown man, matured by two years of learning to do what had to be done, without making excuses. Britt found work as a sheet metal assembler and riveter at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company where he gained useful experience and decent pay checks.

In 1963, Mr. Vaughn went to work for Carter Carburetor as a drill press operator. A year later, Britt was promoted to the position of Inspector and then to Shop Steward. While enjoying whatever work he did, our veteran continually sought more responsibility. In 1974, Carter Carburetor gave Mr. Vaughn union leave to become a field training specialist for the United Auto Workers.

In 1978, the Westinghouse Electric Corporation hired Britt as a management trainee. This led to the position of Supervisor of Human Resources, where Britt remained until 1989.

Just as all parents are proud of their children, Britt Vaughn and Irene, Britt’s wife of nearly forty-four years, were no exception. The Vaughn’s first son, Anthony, was a star athlete in football and baseball when he attended Kirkwood High School. After graduation, Anthony did well in military service, and later, in the business world.

Second son, Britt Jr., attended John Burroughs, a private high school, where he played varsity basketball and football. His football record earned him a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. Because of a knee injury, Britt Jr. dropped out of the football program, but earned a Bachelor’s degree at the University’s Wharton School of Business.

Wachovia Bank (now Wells Fargo) provided a fine opportunity for Britt Jr. while he earned a Master’s degree at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Youngest son, Jon, attended McClure North High School where he excelled in soccer, track, and football. Upon graduating in 1988, Jon was awarded a full football scholarship to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Two years into studies, things changed. Jon dropped out of school to join the NFL. Britt recalls that he was not happy to see Jon’s education sidetracked, but he decided to support his son’s decision. Jon signed with the New England Patriots to play running back and kickoff specialist. Early on, in a pre-game run against the Colts, Jon was named Most Valuable Player.

Jon’s football career included playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, and Rhein Fire. The Rhein Fire were a professional American football team in NFL Europa, formerly the World League of American Football. Upon retirement from football, Jon joined his brother, Britt Jr. and other retired sports notables to assist recently retired players in making the transition to new careers and interests.

While employed at Westinghouse, Mr. Vaughn began doing income tax work out of his home. Upon leaving Westinghouse, Britt expanded his personal business. Until he retired fully in 2008, Very Best Services provided assistance (at a very modest fee) to the general public who wanted to do their own legal filing and save the costs charged by full service firms.

Through the years, Mr. Vaughn performed numerous volunteer services that included two years as a volunteer paralegal and legal intern at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, a not-for-profit agency for the poor.

Britt recalls that when he dropped out of high school to enter the Army, Bertha, his mother, urged him to earn a GED, at the very least. In 1983, while employed full time at Westinghouse, Britt completed studies at St. Louis University, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Development. In 1989, while self-employed, Mr. Vaughn earned an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies at St. Louis Community College, Florissant Valley.

Several years earlier, while Britt worked for Carter Carburetor, he enjoyed playing basketball with Carter employees, competing with other company teams in the area. During one game, Britt fell, severely injuring his head and pelvis. He was patched up, but problems persisted. Further inquiry showed serious issues with his lower back, hips and legs. Surgery helped but it became much harder for Britt to function. Through the years, and up to the present, pain persisted — so did our veteran. Britt Vaughn continues to excel as a parent, teacher, businessman and friend to all. For this courageous man, giving up has never been an option.

On October 20, 2014, Britt entered Missouri Veterans Home – St. Louis. He is a quiet, thoughtful man who enjoys stimulating conversation. He’s active in many programs and activities here. On January 14, 2016, Britt was elected vice-president of the Veterans’ Council. You will often see him at Bingo, on trips and outings, or just hanging out for a while in the Recreation Room.

It has been my pleasure to work with Britt Vaughn, Sr. in sharing his story with all of you. Recently, I asked Britt what’s important to him at this point in life. His answer: “To be respected, and to be helpful to anyone.” Britt, we love you and appreciate you. We respect you for your honesty and good will toward us all. See you at Bingo!

Jon Stacey