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I am a Veteran.JOEL E. VARNER

Joel E. Varner

Joel Elliott Varner died on March 13, 2019. He was born to Mamie Veazey and Elliott William Varner in Senatobia, MS on October 12, 1923. He grew up there with his older sister Virginia, and younger sister Elise. After graduating from Senatobia High school, Joel attended Ole Miss in the fall of 1942.
With WWII escalating, he enlisted in the Army Air Force in December of 1942 at age 19. After basic training and with a dream to be a pilot, Joel began aviator training. He earned his "wings" in August, 1944. After learning to fly the P-40 fighter he continued flight training and became a P-51 fighter pilot.
Joel was assigned to a P-51 Fighter Squadron at an air base in Karatia, India where he remained until the War in Europe ended on May 8, 1945. After WWII ended, Joel's P-51 Fighter squadron was assigned to an air base in Shanghai, China, where their mission was to overfly Japan for observation, to verify the Japanese Army's compliance with the peace treaty. His squadron also participated in a mission to ferry P-51 planes from Kunming India to Shanghai, which required a 1,200 mile non-stop flight over the Himalayas, otherwise known as "flying The Hump".
Joel returned to the U.S. in the summer of 1946 and received an honorable discharge from the Army Air Force. He re-enrolled in Ole Miss in September of 1946, where he met his future wife Catherine Gene (Katie) Bankston from Edwards, MS. They married in August of 1950, the same year that Joel graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in Business Administration.
Joel was once again called to active military duty through the Air National Guard for the Korean conflict. In 1951, Joel was assigned to a military base in Hamelburg, Germany to fly patrol over the German/Russian border to observe possible troop movement of the Russian Army. Katie joined Joel in Germany for the last 6 months of his tour of duty there. He was discharged from active military service again in the summer of 1952. A year later he volunteered to join the MS Air National Guard so he could continue to pursue his love of flying.
Joel and Katie lived in Senatobia for one year before moving to Edwards, MS, where Joel took a job at The Bank of Edwards and ran a cattle operation on the Bankston family farmland. Paul, Cathy, and Mary were born and raised in Edwards, where Joel and his family enjoyed the rural small town life. Joel and Katie were actively involved with the Edwards Presbyterian Church, bridge groups, 4-H activities, and keeping up with numerous animals, pets, and children.
During this time Joel learned to fly helicopters for the National Guard, and would occasionally land one in a field on the edge of town to come home for a lunch break when flying on the weekend. His unit also responded to social unrest and rioting in the 1960's, and they were activated to provide relief to the gulf coast counties after Hurricane Camille struck in 1969. Joel retired from the National Guard as a Brigadier general in 1978.
In 1969 Joel and Katie moved their family to Jackson, MS where he continued his banking career at Deposit Guaranty National Bank. They enjoyed many conventions with friends in the Young Bankers Association. Joel served on the boards of Hinds General Hospital and River Hills Tennis Club. He was a faithful member of First Presbyterian Church, where he served as an Elder and on the Board of the Day School. Even after moving to Jackson, Joel and his family spent many Saturdays at the farm in Edwards. While Joel was tending his cattle, his children and their friends would ride horses, have picnics, and swim in the small lake.
He and Katie enjoyed road trips across the US and traveling in Europe, but their biggest delight was spending time with their now-married children and 10 grandchildren. Nana and Pop, as they were known by their grandchildren, were always available to babysit or help out in any way. Joel was a devoted father and grandfather, always available for fun activities or words of advice, and he had a way of making each grandchild feel he or she was his favorite. One of Joel's frequent phrases was, "What can I do for you today?"
After retiring from banking and the cattle business, Joel and Katie purchased a small house at Lake Cavalier where they enjoyed many happy days with their children and grandchildren swimming, fishing, skiing, and rocking and swinging on the screened porch.
Never one to sit still, Joel stayed active until he turned 88 driving the tractor at the farm, tinkering in the yard at the lake house, and playing tennis. In later years, a highlight of each week was the Saturday lunch gathering at Billy Cook's farm with many of his friends. They met together for 25 years enjoying hamburgers and corn on the cob (the menu never changed), football, old stories and lots of laughter. Joel's humor and gentle teasing nature won him many friends over the years, and his kindness and great faith are an inspiration to his family.
Joel is survived by his children: Paul Varner and wife Karen, Cathy Keegan and husband Pat, and Mary Ellison and husband Parker. Joel's grandchildren are: Fran Varner Snow and husband Nate; Joel Varner; Kate Keegan Wilson and husband Ryan; Brendan Keegan and wife Elisabeth; Duncan Keegan and wife Hannah; Trinh Keegan; Lee Ellison and wife Bonney; Claire, Daniel, and Emily Ellison. Joel's great grandchildren are: Elliot, Cora, Ruth, and Wesley Snow; Ellie and Patrick Wilson; and John and Philip Keegan. Pop will always hold a special place in each of their hearts. Joel is also survived by his sister Elise Varner Winter and her husband William and nieces Gale, Ann, Lele, and Eleanor.
He was preceded in death by Katie, his wife of 63 years, and his sister Virginia Varner Phillips.
Joel was a truly special person whose shoes cannot be filled. We'll all miss him so much, but trust him into the arms of God by the grace of Christ.
Joel's family would like to thank Nikki, Gail, Wanda, and the staff at The Blake for the kindness and care they gave to Joel during his last weeks.
Visitation will be at 10 AM on Saturday, March 16 preceding the funeral service 11 AM at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson. Interment with military honors will follow the service at Edwards Cemetery at Edwards, MS.
In lieu of flowers, Joel's family requests that donations be made to the Scholarship Fund at First Presbyterian Day School.


Joel E. Varner
October 12, 1923 - March 13, 2019





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