Juanita Lorina Lee “Nita” Varner
Juanita Lorina Lee Varner was born on March 20, 1914 to John Henry and Willie Bell Barnum Lee in Americus, GA. She was the second child and had an older brother, Barnum Dennis, whom she loved dearly. At an early age, she and her brother moved to Moultrie, GA where she was raised by her Father and stepmother, Ann Jones Lee. Her Father introduced her to and insisted she take piano lessons, which she began at age eight. She joined the Williams Tabernacle CME Church and attended at every opportunity.
Mrs. Varner attended Moultrie Elementary School in Moultrie, GA, graduated from Paine High School in August, GA and earned a B.S. degree in Music and English Education from Knoxville College in Knoxville, TN.
Her first teaching experience was in Manassas, VA where she taught English and Music for one year. She moved back home to Moultrie and began teaching at Douglass Elementary School in Thomasville, GA. She taught second graders for several years then began teaching seventh grade English, Spelling and Music. During this time, she met, fell in love with and married William James Varner. He was a Math teacher at Douglass School. He later became the principal of the school. They married on May 16, 1934 and in later years had two daughters, Wilnita Yvette and Sandra Jacquelyn. She also taught private music lessons at home and had many successful students.
Her extended Music Education included FAMU, the Fred Waring School of Music in Delaware and Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. She retired from teaching after 35 years.
She worked diligently at Saint Luke CME Church where she served on the Stewardess Board, Christian Board of Education and the Missionary Society. She was also the organist for several years. She also worked with Saint Luke’s Sunday School and Mid-week programs. She worked diligently with the Youth and Young Adults as their musician and assisted with different programs for their Annual Payne College leadership conference in Augusta.
Mrs. Juanita Varner is a devoted wife to the late Williams James Varner and is a loving mother to Wilnita V. Fortson and Sandra V. Dunbar. She is a grandmother and great grandmother who, according to her family, made many unselfish sacrifices for her family and friends. Her family says she’s taught them to cherish what they have, work hard for what they want and never give up on their dreams. She taught them to respect themselves, as well as others. They say above all, she taught them to pray and love who has blessed and kept their family togehter through many toils and snares.
On March 20, 2019, Mrs. Varner will turn 105 years old. She still enjoys listening to and watching taped church services and watching all types of sports. She helps around the house by washing dishes, cleaning greens, snapping beans and folding and putting away her clothes.
Mrs. Varner is a testament to the power of one person to change an entire community. We are proud to have her as the Grand Marshal of the 1st Annual Black History Month Parade.