Varl O. Wilkinson

Varl Ormand Wilkinson, born June 16, 1915 in Baldwin, MI to Glenn S. and Flossie M. (Updegraff) Wilkinson, passed away peacefully April 4, 2012 at the age of 96. Varl was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Nancy (Buben) Wilkinson, with whom he shared 68 blessed years of marriage.

Varl was valedictorian of the Baldwin High School class of 1933. He earned a teaching certificate from Ferris Institute Normal School in 1934 and went on to attend Western State Teachers College where he also played baseball. Following one year at Western, Varl took a job teaching in a one-room rural school in Peacock, MI where he was employed for two years while also putting in time at his parents’ store, Wilkinson Grocery in Baldwin, MI to help his older sister Ruth earn her teaching degree.

Then, largely supported by Ruth, Varl returned to Western, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1939. Varl was hired as a teacher in Ortonville, MI where (after she infamously walked up two flights of stairs to borrow a pen from his classroom) he met Nancy, also a teacher. Married in 1940 they went on to have four daughters as well as long careers in educational service. Varl was employed as principal in Ortonville from 1940-1943 also serving as athletic coach and director, Boy Scout leader, and occasional bus driver.

He earned his Masters in School Administration from the University of Michigan in 1942 and served as superintendent of Ortonville schools from 1943-1947. In 1947, Varl was hired as superintendent of Portage Public Schools where he went on to cultivate 23 years of cherished service to a district that enrolled under 1,500 students the first year of his employment and grew to over 10,000 students in 1970, the year of his retirement. Varl served as Deputy Director of Michigan Association of School Boards from


Varl and Nancy shared many treasured summers “at the lake”, hosting family and friends at their cottage on Big Star Lake in Lake County, Michigan. Varl was a long time member and choir  participant at Grand Ledge First United Methodist Church. Varl’s family is deeply grateful for the fullness of his 96 years and the abundance of a life so well lived. The family would like to thank the care providers of Fairview  A.F.C. and Hospice of Lansing for their valued service.

Varl is survived by his children; Eileen Wilkinson (John Ducmanis) of Ann Arbor, Nancy May (John) Scrimshaw of Fraser, Mary (Al) Geurink of Grand Rapids and Diane Wilkinson of Tucson, AZ; 6 grandchildren: Mindy (Kevin) Holohan, Amy Jo (Cionnaith) O’Dubhaigh, Brent (Ruth) Geurink, Megan (Jacob) Force, Ingrid (Scott Higgins) Ducmanis and Annie (Jim) Ducmanis Adams; 8 great-grandchildren: Josie, Mary, James, Indra, Colin, Emilia, Cian and Elsha; niece Jane (Geoff) Leeson-Jackson; and many extended family members.

In addition to wife Nancy, Varl’s parents and sister preceded him in death. Funeral services were held Wednesday, April 10, 2012 in Grand Ledge. For those desiring, contributions may be made to the Grand Ledge First United Methodist Church, Music Endowment Fund.