Phyllis McEldowney Varner

June 11, 1929July 17, 2014

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.


  • Memorial Service Monday, July 28, 2014

Phyllis McEldowney Varner

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Jim Green

August 30, 2014

I knew Mrs Varner as a student of her husband (Mr Cbarles Varner) in the W&M Band. They were so supportive of current and former students, and I found visits with them as an alum to be a great delight. They were both sweet people, both role models, and both had wide ranging musical interests. She will be much missed, but greatly appreciated in memory. Blessings to the family!

Richard Diakun

July 26, 2014

I still have fond memories of Phyllis from way back when I was in 8th grade at Queen's Lake and had the fortune to play trumpet in the Williamsburg Youth Orchestra. Little did I know then that the whole Varner fmily would end up having such a major impact on my life. When I went to W&M in the fall of 1976, Chuck would end up being a man who guided me through a period of my life when I was in serious need of some guidance... and Phyllis was right there through all of the band camps and such. They are both missed here, but I know that they are together in a much better place.

July 26, 2014

I'm so sorry! Phyllis was such a delight. I remember her gentle, sweet nature. She was always learning something interesting:)

Paulette Amory

Michael Pollock

July 24, 2014

I regret that I will be unable to attend the funeral service due to a conflict. I knew Phyllis primarily through her late husband as a result first of my being a member of the William & Mary Band, and subsequently as a member and even officer of the W&M Alumni Band, but always found her to be delightful company.


July 24, 2014


Myrna Brinkley

July 24, 2014

So sorry to hear Phyllis is gone. I first met her in Williamsburg Area Music Teachers group and have sung in Williamsburg Womens's Chorus for 21 years. The chorus will celebrate our 50th Anniversary next spring...a wonderful legacy Phyllis left us. I also live at 903 Penniman Road where Chuck & Phyllis first lived upon arrival in Williamsburg! I have very fond memories of Phyllis and pray God's comfort will surround you.

July 24, 2014

To The Family,
May you find comfort and peace in knowing that God understands your grief and He cares for you (1Peter5:7). Please accept my sincere condolences

Christine Felts

July 23, 2014

So sorry to read you've lost your mother, Kris. I have fond memories of her. Thinking of you all with prayers.

Sharon Josefowski

July 20, 2014

I remember going to the house in Williamsburg with my family when I was younger. Aunt Phyllis was always so gracious. For many years she used to send cards, which my daughter loved. She wil be missed.