Vernon J. Trapp

Vernon J. Trapp

June 1, 1933- September 27, 2023

VISITATION: Tuesday, October 3, 2023, 5-7 p.m. West Center Chapel, followed by a VIGIL SERVICE: at 7 p.m. GRAVESIDE SERVICE with Military Honors: Wednesday, October 4, 2023, 11 a.m., Omaha National Cemetery, 14250 Schram Rd. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to Catholic Charities in memory of Vernon Trapp.

To view a live broadcast of the service, please go to and click the “Live Cast” button at the top of the home page.

Vernon James Trapp, 90, of Omaha, Nebraska, passed away on September 27, 2023.

Vern was born on June 1, 1933, at St. Catherine’s Hospital in Omaha, NE to Joseph Trapp and Clara (Witmus) Trapp. Vern was a true S.O.B. (South Omaha Boy), attending Holy Ghost Elementary School. He loved to tell stories of how his family lived in the “country,” way out on 50th Street, south of Q. He told of cutting through the fields to go to the store for his mom, buying candy and extra boxes of cereal on his folk’s store credit. Then he would dig for the toy, hoping for a balsa wood airplane from the cereal box, before tossing the box aside, to hide any evidence of his extra store charges. He spoke of roaming along Q Street, sometimes finding a fight or two amongst the other kids, or a once in a while having a bar patron (mostly meat packing house employees) treating him to a bottle of pop. During Vern’s 1947-1948 school year, he received a Merit Award for his participation in the Omaha Junior Fire Patrol. This may have sparked his passion for his future career.

Vern missed a year of school, as he battled with Rheumatic Fever at an early age, but he graduated from Omaha South High School in 1952. He attended Creighton University for a couple of years, and during this time met his wife of 66 years, Margaret “Jean” Yelinek. Jean was a senior at South High and worked at a Reed’s stand on 39th & Q Streets. Vern’s family would often stop at the ice cream shop just before closing at 10:30pm. The order was always for chocolate malts, and Jean would always have to re-clean the malt machines a second time to close.

Eventually, Vern asked Jean out on a date, and not long after he was proposing to her at her senior Prom. Vern had enlisted in the Army and left for basic training and Active Duty the summer of 1954. He was to come home for a leave at the end of September. They decided they wanted to get married while he was home. In three days, a wedding was planned, and they married on October 3, 1954. They had a short honeymoon in Lincoln, Nebraska before Vern left again for Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia.

In June of 1955, Vern was on leave again in Omaha, and took his new bride with him back to Georgia. They loaded everything they had in a 1947 Dodge. Vern always spoke very affectionately about how he loved and cared for this car. After his honorable discharge from the Army in 1956, Vern and Jean moved back to Omaha.

Vern worked various jobs, including at the South Omaha Packing houses. While there, he learned the Omaha Police and Fire Departments were hiring. He tested for both. He tested well enough to have offers from both the Police and Fire Departments. After much prayer and consideration, he chose to work for the Omaha Fire Department.

Vern’s career with the Omaha Fire Department spanned 35 years from January 17, 1958, through December 5, 1993. In his 35 years, Vern was promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief, and built the Omaha Arson Bureau from a one man investigation unit to what the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency called, “a program I believe will prove shortly to be among the most effective in the nation.

Vern initiated having police officers assisting as members of the Arson Squad, and eventually, helped gain legislation for Arson Investigators to have police status for arson cases. Vern also served on a task force within the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He was on call to respond to any large fire throughout the United States, as an arson investigator, specializing in fire origination. Throughout his fire career, Vern had the nagging urge to finish college. He took part time classes in the late 70s, and in the mid 80s, achieving his Bachelor of Science Degree from UNO in 1987.’

Not being able to have children of their own, Vern and Jean worked with Catholic Charities to adopt three children. Michael (Mike) was adopted in 1962; Victoria (Vicki) was adopted in 1966, and Mark came along in 1970. As a firefighter, Vern had a schedule that allowed for six days off in a row two times a month. This meant the family had plenty of opportunities for camping. Tent camping was only successful a couple of times before Jean told Vern, she was not a “tent camping” wife. So, Vern bought the family a pop-up camper. It served them well for a few years until Mark grew older. Finally, a pull behind camper was purchased, and many camping trips were enjoyed throughout the Midwest. In the early 80s, one long trip to Washington D.C. may have had a bit too much “family time”, but the memories were made to last a lifetime.

Vern and Jean were both happy to participate in their three children’s weddings, and to see the arrival of their seven grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. They were able to spend time with the children, but they also spent a lot of time “going for a ride.” These car rides may have meant a quick trip to York, Nebraska for lunch, a drive to go watch the sunset together or maybe just a drive to have someone else make them chocolate malts.
After retirement, Vern found himself underfoot a bit much at home with Jean, who had her own day to day routine, so he obtained his CDL and drove a school bus for quite a few years. This allowed Vern to drive his grandchildren on many fieldtrips, as the teachers would request Vern to be their bus driver.
Eventually, Vern and Jean decided living in and maintaining a house was more than they could manage at their age. Choosing to move on their terms instead of waiting until they “had” to move, they sold their home and moved to independent living. They lived their last chapter together at Remington Heights, and now are together again.

Vern is proceeded in death by his wife of 66 years, Jean; parents, Joe and Clara; older brother, Orlan. He is survived by son, Mike (Holly) of Sunnyvale, CA; daughter, Vicki(Jeff) Payton of Yutan, NE; son, Mark (Renee) Trapp of LaVista, NE, grandchildren: Trevor(Cassie)Payton; Danielle(Whitney) Petersen; Walker Payton; Connor Trapp; Gavin Trapp, and Zack Trapp; great-grandchildren: Lucas, Carter, Beckett and Payton Petersen; close friends, Nancy Sharpe and Tom Olig.


  • Paul & Ruth Ploof Posted September 30, 2023 7:04 am

    Thank you Vern, for your sweet smile, your pleasant greetings, your congenial conversations. You are missed. Our sincere sympathies to your family and friends, We were all blessed to know you.

  • Phyllis Portland Posted September 30, 2023 12:09 pm

    Sorry to see Chief Trapp’s obit in the paper today. He will always be “Chief Trapp” to me. I was his secretary when the Arson Bureau was first formed. I did all the typing and file work for the Chief, two fire captains and two police officers before I earned a promotion to then the Personnel Department of the City of Omaha. Chief Trapp was a nice boss and we’d often have long conversations at his desk before the phone would ring and I’d have to go back to work. He loved his children so much and would talk about the family often. I’d even go to Chief Trapp when I needed advice about my own children who were the age of Mark. Once when one of them got into my booze and became drunk, he told me not to make so much of it. Rest in peace, dear Chief. I will always have fond memories of you. My sympathies to the family at this time of loss.

  • Donald Nichols Posted October 1, 2023 5:01 am

    Always enjoyed having Trapper at our monthly luncheons. (But hold the meatloaf) He was well liked by everyone on the Department and made the Fire Investigation Bureau into a First Class Bureau. Rest In Peace Chief..

  • THOMAS J OLIG Posted October 1, 2023 4:29 pm

    I have been following Vern Trapp around Omaha even before he retired.
    He was my mentor and a true friend, Always ready to support you, and give his advise, if you asked for it!
    He never met a cheeseburger that he did not like!
    We worked together in Battalion 5, Southwest Omaha.
    Never one to get excited at a “Fire scene”, and always willing to have you talk to the News reporters so
    your family could see you on the TV.
    He was always a true gentleman and friend.
    I will miss our visits at Remention Heights and his friendship and conversation.
    Family was every thing to Vern, and I am know we will all miss his smile
    and positive outlook on life!

  • fred empkey Posted October 2, 2023 6:48 pm

    One of the finest chiefs that the O.F.D. ever had.

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