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Hybridizer D. Steve Varner (1917-2014)

Monticello, Illinois, USA

D. Steve Varner was honored by the American Iris Society with the Hybridizer Award in 1995.

Dwight Steve Varner Monticello

– D. Steve Varner, 97, WWII hero and recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters, American POW medal, and the Italian Military Cross for Valor passed away Tuesday, December 9, 2014, at his home. He was born in rural Piatt Co., April 24, 1917, the son of Stevenson Falstaff and Laura Bertha (Fowler) Varner. He married his college sweetheart Avis Beede of Dixon on Dec. 24, 1940. She passed away Oct. 25, 2008, after nearly sixty-eight years of marriage. He was also preceded in death by his parents, a brother George David, and sisters Margarite and Betty. Steve is survived by four sons: Alan (Frankie) of San Mateo, FL; Larry (Patty) of Galva, IL; Bruce (Connie) of Creve Coeur, IL; Eric (Susan) of Carlock, IL; and his caregiver of many years, Doug Beals of Monticello, whom he referred to as his "main man". He is also survived by

IlliniIris1960.jpgsix grandchildren: Teresa (Sergio) Arellano, Michael (Angela) Varner, Mark Varner; Ben (Erin) Varner, Jennifer Varner, and John Varner, and nine great-grandchildren and several step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Also surviving are his sisters Florence Wrench of Marshfield, MO, and Linda Fombelle of Decatur, IL, and a sister-in-law Leona Varner, also of Decatur. After graduation from Monticello High School, he enrolled in the University of Illinois and the ROTC. Varner was a member of Alpha Zeta, Phi Eta Sigma, Phalanx, Agriculture Club, Cavalry Officers' Club, and Hoof and Horn Club. He graduated in 1941 as a Bronze Tablet recipient with a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Agriculture. After enlisting in the Army in June 1941, Varner was assigned to the 1st Armored Division. In 1942 Lieutenant Varner landed in North Africa. As a tank commander he fought his way through Algeria and into Tunisia as part of General Patton's command. Varner's tank, named "Fighting Illini", was knocked out of action, and he was taken prisoner by the German Afrika Corps. After a forty-mile march he and his tank loader were able to escape. He soon encountered seven Italians and captured them by bluffing that a mess kit spoon in his pocket was a pistol. Within minutes eighteen Germans in a truck were also captured. Driving through German lines unchallenged, Varner took the prisoners to the Allied forces. Later, several hundred Italian soldiers surrendered to Varner's small force of tanks. After receiving heavy indirect fire, Varner moved the prisoners to keep them out of harm's way. In 1946 the Italian government recognized Varner for his humane treatment of POWs by awarding him the Italian Military Cross for Valor. The Italian Consulate officially presented this medal to him in 2006. In February 1945, due to numerous injuries and combat-related wounds, Varner was medically retired as a Major. After the war he earned his MS in Animal Nutrition from the U of I. Varner worked as the original research and quality control head for VioBin Corporation for twenty-seven years, retiring in 1977. He not only raised registered swine and cattle but also operated Illini Iris Garden on North State Street. He received national recognition for his hybridizing of many award-winning irises, day lilies, lilacs, peonies, and other plants. In 2006 Steve was inducted into the Monticello High School Hall of Fame for his many accomplishments. In 2013 Major (Ret.) Varner, one of an inaugural group of fourteen, was inducted into the University of Illinois ROTC Hall of Fame. Steve enjoyed hunting and fishing with his sons. He was also a member of the First United Methodist Church and the American Iris Society.

Here is a link to his 1985 Price List which lists most of his introductions.


Border Bearded: 'Disco Doll', 'Golden Tears', 'Night Train'.

Miniature Dwarf Bearded: 'Bantam',

Miniature Tall Bearded: 'Miniature Engraving'.

Siberian: 'Ann Dasch', 'Avon', 'Belfast', 'Colorado Colonel', 'Dance Ballerina Dance', 'Dark Desire', 'Demure Illini', 'Diana Blue', 'Dixon', 'Dream Holiday', 'Dutch', 'Friendly Welcome', 'Green Eyed Queen', 'High Offer', 'Illini Charm', 'Illini Crown', 'Illini Dame', 'Illini Encore', 'Illini Fantasy', 'Illini Flirt', 'Illini Glory', 'Illini Peace', 'Illini Purple Pepper', 'Illini Rose', 'Illini Ruby', 'Illini Stardust', 'Illini Valor', 'Invader', 'King Of Kings', 'Kingly White', 'Kismet', 'Letitia', 'Little Papoose', 'Maranatha', 'Marlya', 'Memphis Memory', 'New Wine', 'Ode To Love', 'Outer Loop', 'Pirate Prince', 'Precious Doll', 'Precious Illini', 'Rare Jewel', 'Rejoice Always', 'Robin', 'Royal Illini', 'Showdown', 'Silver Bird', 'Sole Command', 'Steve', 'Sweet Success', 'Tealwood', 'Valley of Delight', 'Waterloo', 'Wine Wings'.

Species: 'Illini Fountain'.

Standard Dwarf Bearded: 'Betty Wood', 'Irish Halo', 'Shy Miss', 'Wild Child'.

Tall Bearded Bearded: 'Agape Love', 'Avis', 'Battle Fury', 'Bill Norman', 'Bobby', 'Cameo Cascade', 'Carillon Belles', 'Chief Illini', 'Dawn Melody', 'Divine Grace', 'Dixieland', 'Early Autumn', 'Firestone', 'Fragrant Cloud', 'Full Cry', 'Gladys O'Kelly', 'Golden Kiwi', 'Guys And Dolls', 'Hades', 'Halloween', 'Hatari', 'Healing Touch', 'Hickory Smoke', 'Illini', 'Illini Gold', 'Illini Joy', 'Illini Knight', 'Illini Moon', 'Illini Repeater', 'Late Report', 'Leisure Lodge', 'Love Is', 'Lovely Loyce', Magic Moon', 'Mildred Harrell', 'Miss Illini', 'Monticello', 'Mt. Cook', 'Muskrat Ramble', 'Newly Rich', 'Patricia Varner', 'Patti Page', 'Peace Child', 'Pearl Chiffon', 'Pillow Talk', 'Pink Domino', 'Pink Mink', 'Prairie Peddler', 'Precedent', 'Purple Heart', 'Raspberry Ruffles', 'Satin Silk', 'Sea Melody', 'Spanish Sun', 'Stolen Love', 'Sun Seeker', 'Susan Varner', 'Swingin' Safari', 'Trail of Glory', 'Up Date', 'Upper Room, 'Winterhawk'.

-- Main.RPries - 2011-07-27
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
DSteveWarner.jpgjpg DSteveWarner.jpg manage 9 K 26 Feb 2015 - 22:02 UnknownUser D. Steve Warner
IlliniIris1960.jpgjpg IlliniIris1960.jpg manage 31 K 04 Jan 2019 - 16:12 UnknownUser AIS Bulletin 158(July 1960): 99. Advertisement
thumb_loveis01a.JPGJPG thumb_loveis01a.JPG manage 4 K 13 Jul 2017 - 22:28 Main.Harloiris HIPS archives
Topic revision: r21 - 23 Jan 2022, davepote
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