Vern Varenhorst

Long time Storm Lake businessman, LaVerne C. Varenhorst, 95, died Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 at his home surrounded by his family.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 6-9 p.m. at Fratzke & Jensen Funeral Home  Storm Lake. Donations can be made in his honor to either Unity Point at Home Hospice (112 W. 5th St., Storm Lake, IA 50588) or Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight (320 S. 12th St., Fort Dodge, IA 50501) would be appreciated.

Vern was born Oct. 26, 1922, the youngest child of Frank and Lydia Varenhorst of LeMars. He attended school in LeMars, graduating as valedictorian of LeMars High School in 1941.

In December 1942, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to the 14th Armored Tanks Division at Fort Smith, Ark. While there he learned of the pilot testing program. After passing the entrance test, he began flight training to become a B-17 co-pilot. From November 1944, through March 1945, 1st Lieutenant Varenhorst successfully completed 25 bombing missions as part of the 447th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Corps. 

While in England he met Margaret Mary “Jane” Butler. They were married June 16, 1945 in her hometown of Keighley, Yorkshire, England. After the war, they made their home in LeMars where Vern worked at the B&B Store. In 1959, they moved their family of five children to Storm Lake when he went into business for himself. Vern’s Variety opened in August of that year in space formerly occupied by Wallen’s Variety Store. Ten years later, the business expanded and opened as Vern’s in a new, larger location at 702 Lake Ave. Within a few years, it expanded again with the opening of a second store, J. Varenhorst Fabrics. In 1983, J. Varenhorst Fabrics became the dominant focus of Vern and Jane’s business partnership.  He continued to operate J. Varenhorst Fabrics after Jane’s death in 1995 until its closure in December, 2015. After a 78-year-career in retail that started when he was a high school stock boy at the B&B Store, he decided to retire. 

Outside of business, Vern was devoted to his family. He loved planning an annual family vacation and as a result, his children have fond memories of trips that took them across the United States, Canada and Europe. Often there was an extended family component that included visiting far-flung aunts and uncles, or cousins along the way. As his children married and started their own families, he and Jane had new reasons to travel. They never missed grandparent’s days, First Communions, baptisms, musical performances, sporting events, graduations or weddings. He was an honored guest at many of his great-grandchildren’s special events. He recently celebrated his 95th birthday with two parties: one in July with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and another Oct. 28 with his children and their spouses.

He is survived by his daughters, Margaret (Stan) Krol of Sellersburg, Ind. and Rachel (David) Schmid of Cincinnati, Ohio; his sons: Michael (Irene) of Wichita, Kan.; Stephen (Teresa) of Wayne, Pa.; and Mark (Teresa) of Port Orchard, Wash.; 19 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; and dearest friend, Margaret Ireland.

He is also survived by his late wife’s family: sister-in-law, Sheila Thompson and brother-in-law, Joseph Neff, both of St. Joseph, Mo.; and Colin (Valerie) Butler and Farrell (Molly) Butler in England; along with many nieces and nephews.

Vern was preceded in death by his wife, Jane; daughter-in-law, Deborah Pitstick Varenhorst; his parents, Frank and Lydia; and siblings, Benedict (Marjorie), Frank and Alma. He was also predeceased by Jane’s sisters and brothers-in-law, Winifred and John Addyman, Patricia and John Hodgson and Eileen Neff.