Catherine Elizabeth Whatley Varner

Published 11:07 am Monday, October 6, 2014

Catherine Elizabeth Whatley Varner died peacefully at home surrounded by her family on Oct. 5, 2014, 11 days short of her 97th birthday.

Services will be at Crawford Street United Methodist Church in Vicksburg on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, at 2 p.m., with visitation in Wesley Hall from noon until the hour of the service.

Born in Vicksburg on Oct. 16, 1917, Catherine was the daughter of John Goodwin Whatley and Sue Fay McGillicuddy Whatley. Married on Dec. 21, 1934, she was the beloved wife of Joseph Edwin Varner Sr. for 54 years.

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Catherine, her parents and grandparents were lifelong residents of Warren County, and she spent her girlhood years on Dabney Street in Vicksburg.

Catherine received her entire education in the Vicksburg public schools, beginning at Speed Street School and finishing at Carr Central High School, where she discovered a life long passion for learning. Throughout her life, Catherine was a voracious reader and a learned scholar of American and British history and literature. Gifted with a notably vibrant mind, she was formidable at bridge, crossword puzzles, and conversation.

Ninety-six years ago, Catherine was baptized at Crawford Street United Methodist Church. During her dedicated attendance at Crawford Street, she was a charter member of the Aldersgate Couples Sunday School class.

Catherine was a member of a Bible study group, serving as a circle leader and teacher. In 2011, she was honored by Crawford Street United Methodist Women for a lifetime of service. Her expertly crafted needlework and her delectable homemade cream puffs were vied for each year at the Crawford Street Harvest Bazaar.

Catherine and Joe were committed as patrons to the Vicksburg Little Theater and to the Salvation Army, where Catherine also served as a member of the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary. She also took great pleasure in her role as hostess for the Miss Mississippi Pageant.

Catherine and Joe established Green Acres Memorial Park Cemetery in 1959, and Catherine was integral in developing and promoting the business. They delighted in the travel and the lifelong friendships forged through the Southern Cemetery Association.

Catherine Varner was profoundly grateful for the things in life that mattered: her beautiful marriage, the gift of children and children’s children, and the gatherings of family and friends to celebrate all occasions, great and small.

She was preceded in death by her husband; her parents; and a granddaughter, Catherine Bolynn Varner.

She is survived by her children, Joseph Edwin Varner Jr. (Betty Lynn) of Hattiesburg, John Mack Varner (Penny), and Kay Clark Varner Hobson (Jim), both of Vicksburg; her seven grandchildren, Joseph Edwin Varner III (Michelle), Thad Whatley Varner (Kate) and Leigh Varner Barrett (Jonathan), all of Jackson, Janie Elizabeth Varner McIntire (Troy) of Hattiesburg, Emily Varner Shelton (David) of Oxford, James Daniel Hobson III (Salli) of Vicksburg and Joseph Varner Hobson (Victoria) of Jackson. Catherine is also survived by her 16 great-grandchildren, Ashley and Will Varner, Thad, Wyn and Jack Varner, Nathan and Anderson Barrett, Mary and Tess McIntire, Sam, Emma, and Mack Shelton, Clark and Mallory Hobson, and McKinley and Jackson Hobson.

The family wishes to express deep gratitude to the loving and kind caregivers, Alaka “Lucy” Freeman, Carolyn Barnes, Tina Qualls, Zel Odoms, Lena Nickerson (deceased) and John L. Nickerson. Special thanks also to Dr. Bill Pierce, a family friend of 60 years, and Joan Campbell.

Pallbearers will be Catherine’s grandsons Jody, Thad, Jay and Joe; her grandsons-in-law, Jonathan, Troy and David; her nephew, Edgar Allen; and her lifelong family friend Harry Sharp.

Catherine’s life may be honored with memorials to the Music Ministry of her Crawford Street United Methodist Church.