Paul Ray Varnes

Paul Ray Varnes (age 84) was born June 12, 1934 at home in Monteocha, Florida to Julia Anderson Varnes and Harley Ozias Varnes. Paul died September 7, 2018 of injuries sustained in an August 28 traffic accident. A 1952 graduate of Waldo High School, Paul was an eighth generation Floridian, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management in the College of Health and Human Performance, University of Florida. He is also the author to two novels pertaining to the history of Florida: Confederate Money based on Florida’s involvement in the Civil War and Black Creek based on the Florida Seminole Indian Wars. Both novels rely heavily on the Varnes’ family history as documented from military, governmental and other verifiable sources as well as family antidotes. Paul (RA24650058) received a number of military commendations for his service in the US Army during the Korean War including the combat infantry badge, the bronze star with a “V” device for valor, and 2 purple hearts. His injuries were sustained during the last battle for Pork Chop Hill, July 9 and 10, 1953. After returning to the states, Paul spent the remainder of his military service at Fort Benning Georgia and Fort Lewis Washington. He was honorably discharged from service on September 8, 1956. Paul returned to Gainesville and along with numerous other veterans’ families lived in Flavet (Florida Veterans) Village while studying at the University of Florida. He earned bachelor (1960) and master (1961) degrees in Physical Education with a minor in math. His first teaching job was at Pensacola (Florida) High School (PHS) where he was also a highly successful track and field coach. After two years at PHS he returned to UF to pursue his doctorate of education (College of Education, 1967) while working as a graduate assistant in the Intramural Department (precursor to the current Division of Recreational Sports). Although he had a number of offers of employment in higher education upon completion of his doctorate, he had strong roots in Alachua County and wanted to remain close to home. Just before completing his doctorate, he received an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title III federal grant to provide physical education/fitness programs to a five county area with demonstration schools based in Marion County. The Title III grant provided the foundation for highly successful, award winning physical education programs across the five counties. In 1968 Paul was recruited back to UF and the College of Physical Education, Health and Recreation (now the College of Health and Human Performance) as Chairman of the Department of Intramurals. With the reorganization of the College in 1976 the newly named Department of Recreation included the professional preparation curriculum as well as the Intramural program. Paul was instrumental in the redevelopment of the Lake Wauberg Outdoor Recreational area overseeing the construction of new structures on the north end. Early in the 1980’s the Wauberg South Recreational area was opened. In addition to his impact on a number of recreational facilities on the UF campus, Paul was a driving force working with the UF’s Student Government leadership to secure funding for the O’Connell Center. Paul retired from the department and UF in 1996, after 28 years serving as department chair. In addition to his involvement in the University community, he was a member of numerous county and city committees and councils, including the Tourism Development Committee (TDC). Paul was also a nationally and internationally recognized leader in his profession, receiving numerous honors and awards. Having grown up in rural Alachua County, Paul was an avid hunter and fisherman. One of his greatest joys since his retirement was passing those skills on to other family members especially his grandsons. The youngest of five, Paul was preceded in death by his brother, Harvey O. Varnes, and two sisters Lorene Breeden and Constance (Connie) Lucius. Another sister, Sybil Haveard resides in Gainesville, FL. Paul is survived by his wife of over 40 years, Jill (Tutton) Wilson Varnes, his five children Paula Varnes Fussell (Greg) and Patricia Varnes (Walt Spelman) of Gainesville, James Wilson (Casey), and Jennifer Wilson Carlstedt (Ed) of Tampa, and Julia Rae Varnes (Ed Arp) of Gainesville; one granddaughter (Ella) and 11 grandsons (Brendan, Nick B., Alex, Wilson, Nick C., Chance, Justice, Austin, Palmer, Grayson, and Bryan); as well as numerous nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, the Varnes’ Family requests that donors support the charity of their choice and/or the University of Florida’s College of Health & Human Performance (HHP). To support HHP, please send donations to The University of Florida Foundation, P.O. Box 14425, Gainesville, FL 32604. Checks should be written to the University of Florida Foundation and include “In Memory of Dr. Paul R. Varnes” in the memo section. A Celebration of Life service will be held on Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 2:32 PM at the Florida Gym, 1864 Stadium Road on the University of Florida campus. Family will begin receiving visitors at 2:00 PM. Everyone is asked to wear their favorite orange and blue attire.

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