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Laura E. (Speer) Varney

Laura E. (Speer) Varney Laura E. (Speer) Varney was born on August 16, 1933, at a farm home near Clearwater, Kansas. She died on February 24, 2021, at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, at the age of 87. Her parents were Wendell and Rae Speer of Clearwater, KS.

Despite the hard work and chores, Laura enjoyed her life on the farm. She was active in 4-H for many years.

She attended a one-room school house for grades 1-3, but then transferred to the Clearwater school system. In the 5th grade, she was asked to play in the Clearwater High School marching band for two reasons: she was quite tall for her age and was already a very proficient clarinet player. In high school, she won many Kansas state music contests on the clarinet. She was the Valedictorian of her 1951 high school graduating class.

At Kansas State College, she was treasurer of her sorority (Pi Beta Phi), a judge on the College Student Tribunal, and a member of the K-State marching and symphonic band. She graduated in July 1954, after only three years and one summer of collegiate study.

Laura met her husband, Bill, in the K-State Band (they both played clarinet). They married on August 15, 1954. He was called to active duty in the U.S. Air Force in September 1954, to serve in French Morocco. Laura joined him several months later, and they lived in Rabat, Morocco for two years during which the country gained its independence and their first child, Susan, was born. They returned to the U.S. in the fall of 1956 and lived in Salina, KS, for three years. In 1959, they moved to Manhattan and she helped Bill establish a local CPA practice.

In the early 1970’s Laura attended graduate classes at K-State and earned her master’s degree in Clothing and Textiles. Shortly thereafter, she commenced teaching at K-State and taking more classes. In 1981, she earned her PhD degree and was the second student to earn a doctorate degree from the KSU College of Health and Human Services.

Laura retired from teaching at K-State, but kept quite busy in forming a business corporation with her oldest son, Doug, called Clothing Design Concepts. Laura had designed “Perfect Fit” BASIC PATTERNS FOR WOMEN and Doug programmed a computer/plotter to draw individual patterns. They sold customized sewing patterns for women worldwide who had a hard time finding ones that fit.

Laura served for many years as the alumnus financial advisor and as an officer of the House Corporation for the local chapter of Pi Beta Phi sorority.

She was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, serving as a Sunday School teacher, a Deacon, and one of the first elected female Elders. She also was the head of the church’s food pantry at one time.

Laura was quite active in the local Girl Scouts organization. She was not only a leader of a group of girls but also was in charge of the Girl Scout Little House and all cookie sales in the Manhattan area one year.

Laura served on the Board of Directors, as Treasurer, and as President of the Flint Hills Breadbasket.

Laura is survived by her husband Bill of the home; her four children: Susan Koester of Concord, CA, Doug Varney and his wife Daryl of Naperville, IL, John Varney and his wife Namhan Le of Issaquah, WA, and Heather Gritton and her husband Joe of Manhattan; seven grandchildren: Laurel Koester, Kathy Wester (Brian), Jeanine Varney, Robert Varney, Kim Varney (Noah), Cole and Casey Gritton; and three great-grandchildren: Jackson, Travis and Daisy Wester.

She was preceded in death by her parents and three siblings: Dorcas Severance, Klonda Speer and Edward Speer.

Cremation is planned with a private family service. A public service will be held at a later date when it is safe for everyone to attend.

Online condolences may be left for the family by clicking on "Send Condolences" on this page.

Memorial contributions may be made to either the First Presbyterian Church or Smile Train. Contributions may be left in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66502.

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