Doris Varley, after a brief illness, quietly slipped away from this existence on August 10, 2023. She leaves in her wake of passage all the people whose lives she touched with her kindness and grace. Doris was petit and quick of movement, which caused her to be known as Dickie-bird to her family and her beloved husband of 49 years, Freddie Varley.
Dickie was born April 8, 1928 to Alexander Hickey and Frances Hynes Hickey in St. John’s, then capitol of the Dominion of Newfoundland. Ever the proud Newfoundlander, she would exclaim that she was not Canadian, but was born in England’s oldest New World Colony, a self-governing country until confederation in 1949. But prouder still was she when she gained her U.S. citizenship in 1953 in Houston, Texas. The Houston Post reported the event and described her as a “dainty and proper young lady of English and Irish extraction.” As much as she loved her new home in Texas, she never entirely lost the lilting musicality of the old St. John’s city Irish-inflected speech.
1949 was a year that changed Doris’ life: her sister Win brought home to meet her parents, a shy US Airforce Airman named Freddie, a Texan, then stationed at nearby Pepperell Air Force base. Freddie was immediately smitten by her unassuming beauty. She always claimed that at first she didn’t want to marry a bumptious American, but he won her heart and in a small ceremony at the St. John’s Basilica, they were married September 14, 1951. She never looked back. They led a peripatetic life with a new base assignment every two to three years. They were assigned to bases in Minnesota, Newfoundland, Texas, Mississippi, Washington State, Nebraska and finally, Taipei, Taiwan, Freddie’s last active-duty station. They returned to Houston in 1970 to be close to family in Brookshire, Texas.
Doris was a devout Catholic and dedicated her time in Houston to her parish and to the Knights of Columbus. She was especially devoted to Perpetual Adoration at each parish where she was a member.
The next year of change was 2000 when Freddie suddenly passed away in Houston. Subsequently, in 2002 she moved to Beaumont, Texas to be near her only son, Bruce Varley and her beloved daughter-in-law Veronica Benavides Varley. She continued to be the sun around which her family orbited after a final move in 2017 into the house Veronica built for her in Brenham.
Doris made a welcoming and wholesome home for her family, and true to her family tradition always provided a place to stay for family and friends who were in need of shelter and quiet haven. She said she never would know which cousin or uncle from an out-port would be sleeping on the Chesterfield when she came home from work in St. John’s. It was a custom of her mother’s that she kept throughout her entire life - her house was always a refuge.
Doris was educated at Presentation Convent School in St. John’s by Irish nuns who were determined that their girls would become gracious, polite, and well-read women who cared about family and Church. They certainly achieved their mission with Doris, she was a woman of quick wit, quiet grace, a loving heart and strong principles. She instilled a love of learning and a passion for books in her family. She said the best advice she received from Mother Superior at school was, “read to your children, make them ready for college.” She did, and did so lovingly. Her love and her moral direction will echo through each generation of the family. Not to mention a love of dark chocolate, tea, and bickies.
Doris was preceded in death by her one true love, husband, Freddie (Fred) Varley; parents, Alexander L. Hickey of St. John’s, and Frances (Hynes) Hickey from Bay L’Argent on Fortune Bay, Newfoundland; by her sisters, Win Huerta and June Mollan; and by her brother Lawrence (Larry) Hickey. She is survived by her only child, Larry Bruce Varley and wife Veronica (Benavides) Varley; sisters Shirley Fleming, Allie Pinck and husband Stanley Pinck, and Patricia Thoden; sister-in-law Lesley Hickey; grandchildren Jafet Benavides and wife Lovely; and great grandchild Solanna Alicia Benavides; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins: including Eloise Karlen, Lin Barkely, and Carole Sue Giffin; and her scattered informal children who loved her and called her “mom”, too: especially Irwin Friedman and Jack Cohen.
Family visitation will be held at Memorial Oaks Chapel, 1306 W. Main St., Brenham, TX on September 10, 2023, from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Rosary will be prayed from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
A funeral Mass will be prayed at Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 701 Church St., Brenham, Texas at 10:00 AM, September 11, 2023.
A reception will be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 705 S. Austin St. Brenham, TX after mass on September 11.
Interment will take place in November, 2023 at Woodlawn Cemetery, 1101 Antoine Drive, Houston TX. Notice will be posted later as to date and time.
Doris’ family is grateful for the care she received during her time here in Brenham from Dr. Kelley McDonald, and while she was in the care of the kind and compassionate staff at the Baylor Scott White hospitals in College Station and Brenham.
A special word of thanks to the wonderful professionals at Hospice Brazos Valley who treated mom with great dignity and greater care in her few final days.
Please consider honoring Doris’ memory by supporting Hospice Brazos Valley, or donating to Brenham Charity Boutique in her name.
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Memorial Oaks Chapel, 1306 West Main St., Brenham, To post a tribute to the family, visit www.memorialoakschapel.com.