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Celebrations of Life; Beginnings and Ends Rob “Slim” Wilson and Swayze Mae Vernon

Celebrations of Life; Beginnings and Ends Rob “Slim” Wilson and Swayze Mae Vernon
Rob "Slim" Wilson
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Celebrations of Life; Beginnings and Ends
Rob “Slim” Wilson and Swayze Mae Vernon
By Joanne Cram

Many people say that the race family is as close knit as any blood family. And as a race family, we celebrate joys together, grieve losses together, and come together for causes that are near to us all. In times of tragedy and celebration, this close knit group we call family helps to pull us together and offers us an umbrella of mercy and love. Being part of this race family is a comfort when we can’t seem to make sense of life’s challenges.

Our race family pulls together in many ways to surround those that need to be uplifted and supported. This past month, like many months before and many months to come, has offered trials once again to our race family.

Rob Wilson, more affectionately known to his race buddies as Slim, was a guy who lived his life-larger than life! He was fun loving, passionate, and an all around good guy to know. Slim entered into our race family back in the early 90’s when he began coming to the races to help out his buddy Matt Fox in his 360. Slim was hooked on racing and became a lifelong fan and crewmember. After Matt stepped away from sprint car racing, Slim joined the crew of Washington state driver, Steve Beitler, as well as Breezy Whitworth, and worked for both drivers for several seasons traveling the country racing.

In 2001, Slim joined the pit crew of long time friend, Travis Cram, where Slim’s pranks and antics were taken to a new level of perfection. The crew was fun loving, yet hard working and Slim’s passion added just the right flare to the crew. After Travis’ first win in 2002, the massive man that Slim was was seen both crying and hugging Travis in celebration.

Slim lived his life with a passion for everything he did. He married Heather Jennings Wilson, and they have three amazing boys. When Slim wasn’t chasing his boys, he was outdoors hunting, fishing, and farming. During football season, it was hard to miss Slim’s loyalty to his Pittsburgh Steelers and Iowa Hawkeyes- no one could miss his passion for either team, and he let everyone around him know that those were HIS two teams! He also continued to be involved in racing by crewing once again for his buddy, Matt Fox on a team closer to his Paton, Iowa hometown. Slim always made a point to get down to Knoxville’s half mile a couple times a season to make his rounds.

Slim’s big smile, huge laugh, and sneaky prankster presence will be sorely missed at the racetrack. His life was sadly cut short Friday, April 26th, when he lost his life doing what he loved- farming. The track won’t be the same without him, but his life will be honored and remembered each time we all gather back at the race track, knowing he will be looking down on us all.


With loss, comes the promise of new life.

305 driver, and race family member, Casie (Shilling) Vernon was due to give birth to her first baby in July. She and husband, Seth, along with her racer brother Tony Shilling and the rest of the family, were excited at the prospect of a new addition to this race family. This season of racing was going to be much different than past seasons, for the obvious reason- Casie would be sitting out and spectating while her brother drove.

With 12 weeks to go in her pregnancy, Casie was rushed to the hospital with pregnancy related complications. The dire situation gave the doctors little choice, but to take the Vernon’s precious baby significantly earlier than they had hoped. At 10:09 p.m. on April 22nd, Swayze Mae Vernon made her entrance into the world. Weighing in at a tiny 1 pound, 12 ounces, Swayze has been in the NICU since her arrival and medical professionals predict she will remain there until her scheduled July due date.

At two weeks since her arrival, Swayze is showing that she is a fighter. She is holding her own, and proud parents Seth and Casie have even gotten to hold her. Up to two pounds now, the NICU is weaning Swayze off the ventilator and the medical staff says that she is strong. She has her gender on her side, as premature girls tend to fare better than premature boys. Her journey will be a long one, but with care and dedication, this little girl will grow into another generation of Shilling family racers. While in the NICU, Swayze will be monitored to be sure her lungs fully develop, her heart valves are strong, and she continues to ward off vulnerabilities that could harm her development. The Vernon’s would like to specifically thank and acknowledge the adept staff at both the Pella Regional Hospital as well as Mercy. Both Seth and Casie’s work family have been incredible as well, with Seth’s teaching staff at Chariton High School offering to donate some of their personal sick days to Seth. Casie’s new co workers at Pella Family Dentistry, as well as her previous Exsalonce Salon family of co workers have been so supportive, especially LeAnn Robinson who also experienced a similar pregnancy. Casie says that all things happen for a reason, and they look forward to seeing what the future holds. For now, their home in Chariton has sold, and a Knoxville home was bought all in the midst of the pregnancy emergency. Both the Shilling and Vernon families are moving the family into their new home so they can focus on being new parents and spend their time at the NICU.