Joan Gall Varnau was born on April 24, 1925, in Tipton, Indiana, and died on Sept. 1, 2019, in Surprise, Arizona.  

Joan Varnau and her husband, Richard, or “Dick," lived on a dairy farm near Portland from 1957 to 1973. While she was raising their five children, Joan was active with the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, serving on the parish council and as adult leader for the Catholic Youth Organization. In addition, she was a 4-H club leader for many years.

After her youngest child began high school, she worked off the farm in the late 1960s at Ballastran, a small electronics factory, where she became the chief union steward. She successfully led a union strike for better pay and working conditions for employees.

After selling the farm in the early 1970s, she and Dick bought and managed two successful retail businesses (the Bottle Works and the Food Emporium, both of which are still operating) in Huntington, Indiana. In 1989, they sold both enterprises and moved to Sun City West, Arizona, where they led an active social life in retirement and explored new hobbies, including ceramics.

Joan and Dick loved to travel to visit family members scattered throughout the country.

Several years after Dick's death in 2011, Joan moved to an assisted living facility where she continued to spread her good cheer and kindness, as she had her entire life.  She truly "lit up the room" wherever she walked. But her caring heart finally wore out on Sept. 1.  

Joan is survived by sons John Varnau (Carolyn) and Nick Varnau (Roxie), both of Goodyear, Arizona, and David Varnau (Donna) of Edmonds, Washington; and daughters Judy Mohl (David) from Sun City Center, Florida, and Patty Stephen (Doug) of Boulder, Colorado. She had five grandchildren, Adam Varnau of Hudson, Indiana, Heather Aiken of Lopez Island, Washington, Greg Varnau of Asheville, North Carolina, and Jennifer Gilkison and Sarah Varnau, both of Portland, Oregon; and four great-grandchildren. In addition, she is survived by sisters Margaret Robinson of Richmond, Indiana, and Martha Hiatt of Madison, Indiana; and brother Jim Gall of Richmond, Indiana.  

The funeral and interment are scheduled for Oct. 7, in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

To send condolences to the family, please visit SunlandMemorial.com.