Dear Editor: Thursday afternoon death stole a giant of Newton County and we are all the lesser by the loss
I have known Roy Varner since I was a child when he ran what we call the Tractor Place at highways 213 and 36 where Loyal Gas is now located. I remember thinking at the time what a happy person Roy appeared.
I really got to know Roy, however, in the summer of 1976 when I was running for the State House of Representatives and Roy was running for commission chairman. I recall the first campaign function at which we met was in Dial town at the home of one of the daughters of Starr Dial. Roy came in with a plan that was simple and straight forward built around his natural integrity and sincerity. Roy’s platform was fairness and common sense.
Throughout that summer, I came to respect Roy more and more. It was easy to appreciate Roy’s demeanor and yet underestimate his tenacity and ability to get things done. That was a mistake many people would make once.
Roy was always a joy to talk with. What appeared to be common sense coming from an old farmer was in truth real wisdom — almost mystical wisdom. Roy had the ability to study a problem and figure out what needed to be done. Perhaps his greatest gift was his ability to build consensus on how to get done what needed to be done. It didn’t hurt that Board of Commissioners were by and large men who shared Roy’s vision.
Roy always had a tool box full of old sayings, and at just the right time he would pull out one and give you that folksy tidbit which was just so full of insight. Roy used to say, "one man alone couldn’t even hem up a hog in a ditch." He was right. It took people working together to get anything meaningful done.
Much of what Roy accomplished as chairman was so far sighted that we are just now realizing the true impact he had on our community. Roy envisioned a steady water source for Newton County, and out of his vision came Lake Varner. He saw the need for a circumference road and built the Covington By-Pass Road, which is becoming the new center of economic activity for Covington.
Roy purchased equipment and paved many of the dirt roads of the county. He realized that the city of Covington was in Newton County and worked with the city leaders on projects whether they were located in the city or the unincorporated county. He saw that a hospital was critical for the physical and economic health of the county, and made sure it had the resources it needed.
The list goes on. Roy was always looking for what needed to be done and enlisting others to help. He was a truly selfless person as was demonstrated by one of his favorite sayings — "there is no limit to what we can accomplish if we don’t care who gets the credit." Roy never cared about the credit; he only cared that his visions for Newton County were transformed into reality.
I have known many men over my years, mostly average, some good and a couple great. Roy was in the last category. He was truly a great man, and we are all the lesser for his passing.