LIFE OF SERVICE
Anna Marguerite Varner-Egli Celebrates 102nd Birthday
By Peggy Bair
Anna Marguerite Varner-Egli celebrated her 102nd birthday Saturday, April 8, with family and friends at the C.W. Parker Museum. Frequently breaking out in song with her still-strong and angelic voice, she summarized her longevity to the younger well-wishers who attended.
“I’ve believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and I’ve never drank or smoked. I’ve never touched it in my life,” she said.
In her handwritten life story, Varner-Egli recounted her beginnings.
“I was born April 10, 1921, in a little log cabin on the Harrison Meyer Farm in Fairmount,” she wrote. “I was born Marguerite Buck. I lived there for five years. I had one brother and two sisters at that time. Then, my brother David was born in 1923. Daddy then worked for Glover Meyers Dairy taking care of the cattle and the horses.”
Resource Credit: Marguerite Varner-Egli
She said she started school in a two-room school house, having to walk four miles to school and back.
She said she started babysitting three children and doing housework when she was only 10 years old. She ironed starched shirts and pants.
“It took quite awhile to do a bushel basket of clothes,” she said. She also worked at a grocery store sacking groceries and continued to babysit for the store owners’ child.
She said she was baptized as a child. “When I was 11, I led the junior choir. I had to stand on a box to be tall enough to see over the kids.”
She learned to cook and embroidery. She continued to clean houses and tended gardens for the people for whom she cleaned houses.
“I cleaned for an elderly lady named Mrs. Hall. I picked the green beans and tomatoes from her garden. She gave me twenty-five cents and come green beans to take home,” she said. “I also picked strawberries on the Bates farm.”
She said she missed a lot of school from getting childhood illnesses like measles, mumps and chickpox but she managed to graduate 8th grade by age 14 Basehor Baptist School.
“I played basketball with the Basehor girls. I played baseball, too,” she said, recounting the days when she wore bloomers above her knees to the chagrin of the team coach, who made her pulled them back down over her knees. “I got tired of that. I said I’ll just give it up.”
She left home, married John Freeman when she was young, and became pregnant with her first child. She lost her first child just after he was born.
Resource Credit: Marguerite Varner-Egli
But, her second child, a girl she named Norma Jean, was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1941. She unfortunately had to divorce her first husband, after which, she then started babysitting again and doing other jobs to support herself and her daughter.
She met her second husband, Chester Varner, through another acquaintance. She married Varner in Platte City in 1942. With Varner, she had a son, Chester Eugene. By then, Marguerite said that her faith became an important component of her life. “I went to a revival in the Baptist church over on Billy Goat Hill on Wilson Avenue,” she said. “Well, I was filled with the Holy Spirit there.”
During an interview at her birthday party, Varner-Egli said she only voted once in her life and that was for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“I loved him. I thought he was a very nice guy,” Varner-Egli said. “That’s the only one because they say they’re going to do this and they’re going to do that and they never do it.”
She said life during the 1940s was hard. “When you’re working babysitting for five cents an hour, I would save it up and get groceries with it,” Varner-Egli said.
Marguerite was married to Varner from 1942 until his death in 1996. She married Mr. Walter Egli in 2001. Mr. Egli was a war veteran, which led to Marguerite’s service with the VFW over many years. The two were married six years until his death in 2008. She’s been widowed 15 years.
Her granddaughter Jeannie Mahoney said she moved in with Varner-Egli in 2009 to care for her grandmother.
“She took care of me when I was a child,” said Mahoney. “I’m not walking away from my grandmother. She raised me. Everybody has a family tree. We’re more like a family bush. She needed a friend. She never learned to drive. She’s so lucid. I taught her how to use the remote. I taught her how to use her flip phone. We’re like two peas in a pod.”
Varner-Egli was presented with a candle gift from Kan. State Senator Jeff Pittman and a proclamation from Mayor Jermaine Wilson, thanking her for her community service and her service with the VFW, where she served dinners and cleaned for many years.
Marguerite Varner-Egli thanked Sen. Jeff Pittman for his candle gift he presented to her at her birthday party on Saturday, April 8, at the C.W. Parker Museum.
After the party, Mahoney rode with Varner-Egli on the museum carousel as part of her birthday celebration.
“I just say that I’m a good friend. I’ve been with her full time. I’ve been here to be my grandmother’s best friend,” Mahoney said.
Copyright notice: All original photos and text on this site are an original story production of ©2023 HeartKC Peggy Stevinson Bair and may only be reprinted with express permission by HeartKC, Peggy Stevinson Bair. AI reproduction of this story will be monitored. Photos of hand-written copy by Marguerite Varner-Egli are for crediting Varner-Egli and for story verification and clarification of the subject’s recollections.