Nationally known children's book author and elementary teacher.
Born Verna Norberg, was a late-blooming American author of children's books. Born in New Era, Michigan she graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Journalism in 1934. She taught elementary school in Michigan from 1934 to 1973. She also contributed articles to The Muskegon Chronicle in Michigan and taught Sunday school as she developed into a full-time author and folklorist, retelling the lore of Mexico and Africa for children ages 4 to 8. She published 33 books. The first book, ''Tales From the Story Hat,'' in 1960, and the latest, ''Koi and the Kola Nuts: A Tale From Liberia,'' last year. Before she died she had completed several more books.
Among her best-known books were ''Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale'' (1975), and ''Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain'' (1981), which James Earl Jones read to inaugurate the PBS weekly program ''Reading Rainbow'' in 1982. Another favorite, ''Who's in Rabbit's House?'' (1977), retold a Masai tale in which a rabbit marshals his animal friends to remove a monster that has taken up residence in his home.
Locally, many knew her as the "Story Lady". She suffered a stroke in 1992 that left her wheelchair bound.
Her first husband, Albert Aardema, died in 1974. Her second husband, Joel Vugteveen, also pre-deceased her. She is survived by a son, Dr. Austin Aardema of Fort Myers; a daughter, Paula Dufford of Valrico, Fla.; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. (info from NY Times)