Rose Varga, advocate for the elderly and the needy, dies at 99

’Where I come from is from the heart,’ said organizer of numerous community services

Rose Varga, advocate for the elderly and the needy, dies at 99Rose Varga, long-time Ridgecrest resident and driving force for numerous local helping organizations, died on Monday, March 18, 2013. She was in Ohio with family members at the time. She was 99 and would have been 100 in April.

According to a family spokes-person, a private family service will be held in Ohio, with a memorial service in Ridgecrest in mid-April, on a date to be announced.

Rose always requested that donations be made to the American Cancer Society or to the Rose Varga Discretionary Fund, which provides loans of medical equipment like wheelchairs and walkers to those in need. The address for the Discretionary Fund is P. O. Box 2072, Ridgecrest, CA 93556-2072.

Rose was born on April 5, 1913, in Ohio. The eldest of five children of impoverished parents, Rose lived with her grandparents on a small farm outside Cleveland until she was nine years old.

The grandparents had chickens, a goat, a cow and a vegetable garden.

Later, Rose was forced to quit school at age 16 to help support the family, as her father was away from home a great deal. She earned $12 a week working in a dry goods store owned by two of her brothers. She worked seven days a week, sometimes until midnight. She worked for those two brothers for 27 years.

In an interview in 1994, Rose described her childhood as very poor, yet inspirational in that the family always shared with others. “This is what has made me the person I am — that poor but generous background.”

She married Frank K. Varga, now deceased. Their daughter, Sheila Lloyd, who had been caring for Rose, died a few months ago. The grandchildren moved Rose to Ohio right before Christmas.

Rose and Frank moved from Ohio to Ridgecrest in 1971, and she soon began to fight against cancer. Her father died of lung cancer at age 65, and Rose began her own battle with breast cancer in 1978.

Her experiences in surviving the disease lead to her establishment of the Rose Varga Discretionary Fund, and to her leadership of fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society. She also became an advocate for the elderly and anyone in need.

Over time, her drive to help others resulted in her being named Woman of the Year more times than she could remember. She was a leading force in establishing the Beverly Manor Health Care Center, now called Ridgecrest Healthcare, Inc. She also worked with a group of other interested citizens to attract the High Desert Haven to our valley.

She made sure the seniors around her were registered to vote.

Last month, the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert gave Rose’s granddaughter, Leslie Barkman, with a collection of scrapbooks put together by Rose, detailing the many projects in which she was involved.

Rose is survived by grandchildren Leslie Barkman, Michael Byrn and Kathleen Lloyd, all of Ridgecrest.

Over the years, Rose has become a beloved exemplar of community service. She leaves many, many friends and admirers both in Ridgecrest and all over the state.

Watch this paper for more details as they become known.

Story First Published: 2013-03-20