Nov. 11, 1921 – March 15, 2013
Joseph Varga, a retired colonel in the Army Reserve and beloved educator in the Ken-Ton School District known as “Bow Tie Joe,” died March 13 in McAuley Residence, Town of Tonawanda. He was 91.
Born in Buffalo, Mr. Varga was a graduate of McKinley High School, where he was class president. He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts education from Buffalo State Teachers College in 1943 and a master’s degree in public education administration from the University of Buffalo.
He enlisted in the Army during World War II and served as an infantry unit commander with the 20th Regiment, 6th Division, in Luzon, the Philippines. He later served as an information and education officer before health issues forced his evacuation from the area.
Mr. Varga continued his military service with the Army Reserve’s II Corps and 98th Training Division, attaining the rank of “full bird” colonel.
His teaching career, in industrial arts, began in Buffalo in the late 1940s. In the mid-1950s, he joined Benjamin Franklin Junior High School in the Ken-Ton School District, where he was a swimming and diving coach, Boy Scout program consultant and eager volunteer.
Because of his ever-present neckwear, students gave him the nickname “Bow Tie Joe.”
Mr. Varga was promoted to assistant principal in 1967, and he retired in 1982.
Though he retired from the Army Reserve in 1976, he continued to be active in military affairs.
Mr. Varga served as co-chairman of the Western New York Subcouncil of the Fort Drum Retiree Council for more than 20 years and was a member of the retiree council. He helped host Retiree Activity Days for military retirees and their families.
Last summer, Mr. Varga participated in an Honor Flight, which sends World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the war memorial. He also had been called upon numerous times to recite his composition, “A Soldier’s Farewell,” at the funerals of friends and strangers.
Mr. Varga loved opera and supported many cultural and charitable organizations.
In 2006, he and his wife established an endowed scholarship fund at Buffalo State College to benefit graduate students in the exceptional education program. Active in alumni activities, he received a President’s Circle Alumni Leadership Award in 2009; he also was the recipient of a Foundation Chairman’s Recognition Award.
His wife of more than 60 years, Mary Jean Daly Varga, died in 2008.
Survivors include a daughter, Lisa Jean, and a son, William Joseph.
An interment ceremony for Mr. Varga and his wife will be later this year in Arlington, Va., National Cemetery.