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Flora Ann Karhunen Varrin, 87

(November 21, 1934 - July 16, 2022)

A devoted wife and mother

Flora Ann Karhunen Varrin, a gracious, loving and beautiful wife, mother, and grandmother - died on July 16 following a short illness. She was at the time a resident of Stonebridge at Montgomery in Skillman, having formerly lived in Princeton and Newark, Delaware. Flora was born on November 21, 1934 in Newark, New Jersey to Anna Kutvonen Karhunen and Armas Karhunen, who were immigrants from the Savo region of Finland. She was raised by her mother in Kearny, following her father's untimely death in 1938. As her mother worked full-time, Flora was truly a latch-key child, fueling her independence and resilience. A natural beauty, she won a Shirley Temple look-alike contest as a child. In 1952, Flora graduated from Kearny High School, where she was a cheerleader captain and a scholar. Upon graduation, she received three out of the seven medals that were awarded for distinguished academic performance in various disciplines. She then worked in northern New Jersey as an executive assistant, initially at Fireman's Insurance and then at Anheuser Busch. Flora's proudest accomplishment was as a devoted and loving mother, as well as a lifelong partner to her husband. Flora and Robert Douglas Varrin (Bob) eloped during his junior year at Princeton University to Elkton, Maryland where they were married on February 26, 1955. They had first met in seventh grade, but did not re-connect until after their high school graduation. Together, they raised a family of three children - initially traveling across the US before settling in Newark, Delaware where Bob worked as a professor and associate provost at the University of Delaware and Flora managed the household. Flora is survived by Robert Douglas Varrin, her spouse of 67 years; her children: Diane Eshleman (Gregory) of Princeton, Mantoloking, and Stockbridge, MA; Robert D. Varrin, Jr. of Reston, VA and Middleburg, VA; Susan Deland (Alexander) of Pelham, NY and New London, NH; and four grandchildren: Douglas Eshleman (Steven), Amanda D'Esterre (Alexander), Alexander Deland, Jr., and Diane Deland. Flora spoke fluent Finnish, which she learned as a child before learning English. She was strongly connected to her Finnish heritage and dear family in Finland, where she was proud to hold citizenship. Indeed, she truly had international credentials, as she was also a citizen of Switzerland through her husband's family. Flora and her husband enjoyed traveling both domestically and internationally - with a special affinity for Finland and Switzerland. Her maiden name, Karhunen, derives from the Finnish word for bear: fitting, given the strength of her love and devotion to her family. Through Flora, the family came to appreciate the meaning of another Finnish word "sisu" - which roughly translates into determination, tenacity, and bravery. Flora was a proud and active Princeton spouse, gathering often with her husband's 1956 classmates and their spouses. All three of her children are graduates of Princeton, as well as two of her grandchildren. She was a long-time member of the Present Day Club in Princeton and also a member of Nassau Presbyterian Church, where she served on the Board of Deacons. Burial at Princeton Cemetery is private and held under the direction of Mather-Hodge Funeral Home. A memorial service for friends and family will be held at Nassau Presbyterian Church on Saturday, September 10 at 11 am. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Nassau Presbyterian Church, 62 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542.


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