Sgt. Raymond J. Varner
(A Purple Fox 63-66)

Born: 04 JUL 41
Died: 24 AUG 03
From the Portland, Oregon "Oregonian", 07 SEPT 03

Child From Troubled Families Becomes Model Family Man

Ray Varner came from two unhappy homes and was miserably shortchanged as a child, but he turned his life around, became a husband and father and built a strong, loving family. 

Raymond J. Varner died Aug. 24, 2003, of leukemia at age 62. 

He was born Douglas Boyd Cardwell in Twin Falls, Idaho. When he was 3, he was placed in an orphanage. 

A successful candy company executive and his wife adopted him at age 5.  After his father lost his job, the family moved to Forest Grove. Ray graduated from Forest Grove High School and attended Pacific University on a music scholarship. Family problems forced him to drop out and join
the Marine Corps. 

He was in the Marines for six years and served two tours in Vietnam. He was a member of helicopter Squadron 364, the Purple Foxes. One day he flew three combat missions to rescue Marines trapped by gunfire. He later told of hanging out of the helicopter so his body could serve as a ladder for the Marines. 

After leaving the Corps, he was a deputy sheriff in Orange County, Calif., before returning to Oregon in 1972 to join the Washington County Sheriff's Office, where he served for 26 years. 

He helped develop and lead its special weapons and tactics team, worked in a program to stop drunken drivers and spent 18 years in forensics. He took classes at the FBI academy, got a degree from Portland Community College and read everything he could. 

He married, had two daughters and adopted a 7-year-old boy. Ray wanted to adopt an older child, just as he had been adopted. 

He divorced his first wife and later married Diane, who had a little girl, Lori.  Soon Candace and Christina came to live with Ray and Diane. Ray drove them to all their sports practices and seldom missed a game. He played catch with them, took them trout fishing, taught them to drive and cooked dinner most nights because he got home before Diane. 

He and Diane nursed their son, Ric, through his final year after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001. 

Shortly before he retired from law enforcement, Ray took up beekeeping.  He liked to joke that he went from one sting operation to another. 

For a while, he had a hundred hives. He called the bees his "girls" and talked to them. "Hi, girls, how're you doing today?" 

He sold his honey at farmers' markets with a label that read, "RayBee's Honey." Ray resisted the suggestion to add, "You'll foam at the mouth for RayBee's Honey." 

In 2001, he received a letter from Boise and learned that he had four brothers. 

He was the oldest of three boys who were placed in the orphanage, and he soon met them -- Bill and Jim. The brothers looked alike, acted alike and had all enjoyed successful lives. 

After the three children went to the orphanage, their parents had two more boys, Cecil and Theron, who were raised in the family home. 

Ray met them, too, and he was thrilled to replace the piece that he'd always felt was missing in his life, although he had never identified it. 

Bill told Ray the story his adoptive parents told him: When they picked up baby Bill at the orphanage, little Ray followed them to the car and stood waving at his baby brother, waving and waving goodbye until the car drove out of sight. 

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