Vern Woyner works on a 2009 Buick Lucerne at his shop, Vern’s Auto Service, in Lyons. He was honored by the village recently. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Vern Woyner works on a 2009 Buick Lucerne at his shop, Vern’s Auto Service, in Lyons. He was honored by the village recently. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Auto mechanic Vern Woyner honored for 47 years working in Lyons

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Vern Woyner was given the Standing Tall Award by Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty in recognition of his 47 years in town fixing cars. 

By Steve Metsch

If you have lived in or near Lyons the past 47 years and needed your car repaired, there’s a good chance you know Vern Woyner.

Woyner, 70, has been repairing vehicles in Lyons since 1977.

His longevity of expert service has earned him the highest award presented by the village.

At the April 16 village board meeting, Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty presented Woyner with the Standing Tall Award, a wooden replica of the Lyons water tower.

Two days later, when a reporter visited Vern’s Auto Service, 8644 W. Ogden Ave., the award was sitting atop the desk where Woyner has written thousands of work orders.

“I wasn’t expecting it. The last time I talked with (the mayor) was in his office, asking about getting a permit for the roof. He said, ‘Your name was mentioned at the last meeting.’ I was, ‘Okay, now what did I do wrong?’ He said, ‘No, it’s something real good’.”

Vern’s Auto Service has been at its current location for 22 years. He likes the commute as he lives on the second floor. Prior to this, his shop was across the street at 8629 W. Ogden for five years.

Before that, Woyner worked as a mechanic at the former Amoco service station at First and Ogden avenues for 20 years starting in 1977. A Wendy’s is there now.

Being a car mechanic has appealed to him “since I was a kid.”

“My brother’s a mechanic. My father was a mechanic. I have nephews who were mechanics. And I have two sons that are mechanics. It’s a family tree,” he said.

As an example, one son, Justin, works at the shop with Woyner. Another son, Phil, works there part time.

“That’s the only thing we knew so we just did it,” Woyner said of his career.

He enjoys the challenge of helping customers who come in with a variety of problems: “You do something for somebody. You figure it out and you make it work.”

The business has changed. These days, used motor oil, tires, metal and antifreeze are recycled.

“Nothing goes to waste any more. It’s good for the environment,” he said.

He saw the pandemic slow his business. “But after that broke open, we got really busy because people are keeping their cars.”

Pandemic-related delays in the supply chain have repairs that used to take two or three days sometimes waiting a week or two. Some customers struggle with that, but most understand.

“Getting parts for some of the older cars, certain years it’s okay, but late model parts? It’s 50/50. We’ve got to order, if it’s not in stock,” he said.

“I only stock filters, oil, antifreeze, wipers, batteries, basic stuff. NAPA (Auto Parts) is right across the street. Or I’ll deal with O’Reilly (Auto Parts). I’ve got five different sources now,” Woyner said.

After Woyner received his award, the mayor’s brother, Ken Getty Jr., recalled as a college student being “obsessed with an Oldsmobile Aurora.”

“I told Chris this is the car I want. He recommended taking the car to Vern. … Vern proceeded to pick apart all the things that were wrong, forecast what would go wrong, and advised me in a stern Vern way to not buy the car,” Getty Jr., said.

Woyner smiled at the memory.

“Those things are junks. Real bad design. Leaking oil. My nephew had one and I was always working on it. I told Ken, ‘No, do not buy that’,” Woyner said.

Asked for advice to car buyers, Woyner said: “Stay away from Korean cars. Nissan, too. They’re poor quality. I recommend Toyota, Honda.

“My daughter has a 1999 Toyota Camry with (more than) 200,000 miles. Starts every day. I’m a GM guy. A new truck I bought last fall and a black Impala,” he said.

At the board meeting, Getty spoke highly of Woyner calling him “dedicated to our community, helping neighbors.”

“He’s a go-to guy. His word is his bond,” Getty said.

Getty recalled the day two police cars needed repairs and “of course, our mechanic was not working (that day).”

“We called Vern. He said, ‘I have a car on the rack. I’m going to pull it off. Bring those police cars here now’,” Getty said. “And I don’t think we ever got a bill from Vern.”

Randy Holtz formerly was a tow truck driver who worked with Woyner.

“He’s been my mechanic for 47 years. He’s a good mechanic because he’s honest and he’s fair. He doesn’t do anything without an okay.

“And he’s good. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have stuck around with him for so long,” Holtz said.

Getty joked that Woyner must keep repairing cars another three years so he can hit 50 years in Lyons.

“I don’t know. I want to do a little more traveling, a little more fishing,” said Woyner, who owns a boat docked downtown and enjoys weekends fishing on Lake Michigan.

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