DeKalb school leader’s death due to COVID-19, family says

Washington Varnum, Jr. (Courtesy of Connie Varnum)
Washington Varnum, Jr. (Courtesy of Connie Varnum)

Credit: Courtesy of Connie Varnum

Credit: Courtesy of Connie Varnum

A DeKalb County School District employee’s death was due to complications from the coronavirus, his family said this week.

Washington Varnum Jr., 54, was a campus supervisor at Henderson Middle School for the last three years, according to a statement from a district spokeswoman earlier this week. The statement did not include a cause of death.

“The DeKalb County School District sends its condolences to the family of Mr. Washington Varnum, Jr., as well as to the Henderson Middle School family,” the statement said. “Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.”

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Varnum’s family said he worked in the school building until winter break, which began on Dec. 21. He was hospitalized with COVID-19 on New Year’s Day, where he remained in the intensive care unit until his death, they said.

“The kids at the school were his life. He gave them jerseys, shoes, coats and lunch money,” said Connie Varnum, his sister. “He became a blessing to those kids.”

She said her brother had a wife, Carmen, and four stepchildren. He also had nine siblings, she said.

From left to right, Carmen Varnum, Jonathan Greenard, and Washington Varnum, Jr. (Courtesy of Connie Varnum)
From left to right, Carmen Varnum, Jonathan Greenard, and Washington Varnum, Jr. (Courtesy of Connie Varnum)

Credit: Courtesy of Connie Varnum

Credit: Courtesy of Connie Varnum

Brenda Varnum broke into tears over the phone on Wednesday as she spoke about her son’s death. She called him a “loving person so full of life,” that he touched many people him — be it through football, school or his career in law enforcement.

“A lot of people loved my baby,” she said. “I’m grateful and I thank God that other people saw the goodness in him.”

A native of Commerce, Washington Varnum Jr. grew up in Decatur and was a 1985 graduate of Gordon High School, where he played football.

Joe Parks, 53, has known Washington Varnum Jr. since he was eight. He described him a “high-spirited” man who “enjoyed family,” and would “give the shirt off his back” for people.

Washington Varnum, Jr. with his mother, Brenda. (Courtesy of Connie Varnum)
Washington Varnum, Jr. with his mother, Brenda. (Courtesy of Connie Varnum)

Credit: Courtesy of Connie Varnum

Credit: Courtesy of Connie Varnum

James Harris, who formerly played with football with Varnum, called him “a true friend and a brother.”

“It’s a major loss for many people,” he said.

Services for Varnum will take place at the Murray Brothers Funeral Home at 1 p.m. Monday. The gathering will be limited to 50 people.

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