Phyllis McEldowney Varner passed away on July 17, 2014 from Alzheimer's Disease. Despite her condition Phyllis often smiled and laughed until her final days. Her caretakers called her "blue eyes" and loved her sweet and warm disposition.
Phyllis was born on June 11, 1929 to Robert and Hazel McEldowney. She received her B.A. in music from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She took graduate courses at the Julliard School of Music, the College of William and Mary, and Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. After several years teaching public school vocal music in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, she and her husband, Charles Varner moved to Williamsburg, where he took a job as band director for the College of William & Mary. She continued to be active in music, teaching private piano, directing children's choirs and bell choirs at the Williamsburg United Methodist church. A performer in both piano and voice, she was a soloist at local churches and with the Williamsburg Choral Guild.
Phyllis was the founder and first director of the Williamsburg Women's Chorus which premiered her trilogy of choruses based on poetry by Christina Rossetti, the 18th century English poet.
She composed many choral works for treble and mixed choirs, and many works for piano, ranging from beginning pieces through serious works in a contemporary style.
She is preceded in death by her husband, Charles Richard Varner, her daughter, Cynthia Varner Gillum, and her son, Robert Varner. She is survived by her daughters, Kristine Oliver, Sara Erwin and husband, Dana, Katherine O'Bryan, and husband, Wayne; grandchildren, Paul Gillum III, Russell Gillum, Erin Gillum, Jennifer Erwin, Nathan Erwin, Rebecca Erwin, Nicole Oliver, Melissa Earp, Rose O'Bryan and Charles O'Bryan and her great-grandchildren, Paul Gillum IV, Connor Gillum, Sergio Alvarez, Rihanna Alvarez and Alexandria Alvarez.
Funeral services will be held on Monday, July 28th, at 11:00 a.m. at the Williamsburg United Methodist Church.