Springfield WWII vet honored on 100th birthday

Aug 31, 2018

John Varney said the secret to life — is all about not counting your age.

Varney, a decorated World War II veteran, turned 100 years old on Friday. The community put on a celebration fit for a military hero that even included a 21-gun salute by the Marine Corps League 963. Varney was also chosen to take an Honor Flight in September, after an application was submitted for him.

Through Honor Flight, veterans are taken to Washington D.C. to see memorials of the respective war they fought in, at no cost to the veteran.

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Varney enlisted with the U.S. Army in December 1941 and served as a drill instructor, before leaving the service in 1946. Varney is a Purple Heart recipient and spent time both in the U.S. and overseas.

“I got to travel. Get to see some of the countries that I enjoyed. I’ve been busy,” he said. “Truthfully I enjoyed the military. People say, ‘Oh, I have to work so hard.’ You do — and you’re busy,” he said.

Varney said a lot of his work involved training new recruits.

He married his late wife, Virginia Varney in 1942 at Camp Roberts and had one daughter. The couple celebrated 72 years of marriage together, while both residents at Springfield Assisted and Independent Living before Virginia passed in 2013.

After his time in the service, Varney worked for Navistar Inc., where he retired. He was an active bowler and golfer. Even now, he still goes out back for a few practice swings.

“He’s done well up until this point, so to be 100 years old and still be able to enjoy golf — that’s amazing to me,” said Kim Barnett, a licensed practical nurse and nurse supervisor at the living community.

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Barnett has known Varney since 2010, and said all of the nursing staff loves Varney because of his kindness and patience.

“You can learn so much from people that are older and have had life experiences that you may not have ever experienced,” she said. “We’re very proud to have John.”

She said Varney hasn’t shared his secrets to life with her, either.

“I keep asking him his secrets and he said ‘Just stay 19. Don’t get older. Age doesn’t matter,’” she said.

Various community members were present at Varney’s birthday celebration, including Springfield City Commissioner Rob Rue and Springfield Police Division Chief Lee Graf.

While turning 100 is a brag-worthy milestone, Varney still remains humble.

“I had an interesting life, I think so myself,” he said.

Varney’s Honor Flight is scheduled for Sept. 8.