Kenneth Edward Varner of The Dalles, Oregon passed away very peacefully with his wife Willa Jane and daughters and son at his bedside on February 11. He was one month short of his 93rd birthday. He was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania to Kenneth Virgil Varner and Emma Lillian Bench Varner. He was the oldest of nine children. He grew up in a family of electricians; helping to wire homes with his father by the time he was 14.
He joined the Navy during World War II and graduated fourth out of a group of five hundred Navy sailors in electrical training. He went on to set up a school and developed a curriculum to train Navy electricians during the war.
Ken married the love of his life, Willa Jane Wolff, a resident of Sewickley, Pennsylvania on August 3, 1944 in Ecker Mine, Maryland. After the war, Ken and Willa moved their growing family to Astoria, Oregon from their home State of Pennsylvania. Ken and Willa raised five children in Astoria where Ken worked first for Snows Electric and then the Oregon Coast Guard maintaining the Oregon Coast Lighthouses and Coast Guard Stations with respect to their electrical needs.
He was a member of the Elks Club, a member of the Odd Fellows and a deacon in the First Lutheran Church in Astoria. As a member of the church he was in the men’s club. He helped to build the church, which included the main church and fourteen classrooms.
In 1968, he moved his family to The Dalles, Oregon where he took a position with the Army Corp of Engineers as the electrical superintendent for the John Day Dam, the largest hydroelectric plant on the Columbia River. He retired from the Army Corp of Engineers in 1980.
He went on to become the President of the Local Association of Retired Federal Employees and the President of The Dalles Senior Center. He took up running, then walking after being diagnosed with high blood pressure, in retirement and became a member of the Mazamas Mountaineering Club.
With five children, eight grand children and thirteen great grand children, plus 150 direct descendants from his parents, he enjoyed many family trips in the states and overseas, family picnics and other family gatherings. Family to him, like his father, was the center of his life. Ken spent many hours researching the family genealogy to trace the Varner’s from Johnstown, Pennsylvania to German Town, Pennsylvania to Massenbach, Germany and providing this information to his children and family members.
Ken valued education because he learned a trade rather than going to college which he later regretted. One of the things he was most proud was that all of his children went to college. He brought happiness to life and people loved him for his humor and kindness.
Ken and Willa moved into independent living at The Springs at Mill Creek in 2008, making many new friends. Through his life he touched us all with the gifts of humor, health, education, family and love. Those that live on in our hearts shall never perish. Love you dear Husband and Dad very, very much.
Ken is survived by his wife of 69 years, Willa Jane; five children and spouses, Willa Jane Tanabe and husband George, Marjorie Lee Dwyer and husband James, Donna Jean O’Brien and husband Dennis, Phyllis Anne Varner and husband Michael McDonald, Kenneth Eugene Varner and wife Jo-Ellen; brother James Varner and wife Rose, sister Alice Burgess Sears, sister-in-laws Tammy Varner and Helen Varner; eight grandchildren, Gen. Tanabe and wife Kelly, Melissa Lipinski and husband Doug, Amy Dwyer and partner Craig Smith, Kelly O’Brien and partner Chris Lindberg, Jody Rossing and husband Rod, Kasey Hutchings O’Brien and partner Dan McAllister; Kenneth Varner, and Peter Varner; and thirteen great-grandchildren, Zane and Kane Tanabe, Aiden and Eli Lipinski, Archer Smith Dwyer; Garrett, Benjamin, Megan, and Rebecca Rossing; Vance and Makayla Hutchings O’Brien and Kyra and Caroline McAllister O’Brien.
Visitation will be Friday, Feb. 14, from 5 to 7:00 pm and Saturday, Feb. 15, from 10 a.m. until noon at Spencer, Libby and Powell Funeral Home.
Funeral service will be Saturday, Feb., 15, at 1 p.m. Spencer, Libby and Powell Funeral Home. Vault interment with military honors will follow at the I.O.O.F. 18th Street Cemetery.
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