Don S. Varnum


Don S. Varnum, 83, of Bar Harbor died on Dec. 16, 2018, after a long illness.  A sun-tanned, freckle-faced kid who grew up in Pittsfield, Maine, Don loved the outdoors and all things connected to it: basketball, biking, gardening, hiking, and animals, especially dogs, geese and goats, some of which became pets!

Don was born in Pittsfield, Maine, on Aug. 28, 1935.  He attended the Pittsfield Public Schools and ME Central Institute, enlisted in the Army and was a paratrooper for three years, including a stint in Germany. He then attended Northland College in Ashland, Wis., on the GI Bill, majoring in biology and geography.  He met and married the love of his life, Janet Witt of Catawba, Wis.

After graduation, Don worked at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor as a biologist in genetics and immunology, publishing research papers in eye abnormalities.  He began working there when there were about 80 employees.

Don was an outdoorsman.  A lover of canoeing, fishing, camping and hiking, he enjoyed northern Maine with friends and family.  He was a Registered Maine Guide for years.  Gardening was a favorite hobby, and he was proud of his new varieties of hybridized day lilies and flowering crabs.  He called it “playing Bucky Bumblebee” when he went out to pollinate flowers with a paintbrush.  Don also dabbled in stained glass and made several lovely lamps still in use today.

It was his belief that one should leave the world in a better place for having lived there, at least your little part of it, and that he did.

Predeceased by his father and mother, Harry and Mabel Varnum, of Pittsfield, Maine, and his brother, Kenneth, of Dexter, his sister, Rosalie Shaw and her husband, Kenneth, of Pittsfield, brothers-in-law Dean Witt of Ft. Atkinson, Claude Witt of Milwaukee, Wis., and Gene Witt, of Belton, Mo.

His loving wife of 57 years, Janet, and his son, Kenneth, survive Don.  Others include brothers and sisters-in-law Fred and Joyce Witt, Neil Witt, Nancy Witt, Janice Witt, Lee Witt, Ruth and Ron Hake, Helen and Al Mills, Nancy and Roger Abel, Lena Davis, and many nieces and nephews.

The family thanks all of the medical professionals that aided in his journey.  Special thanks to Dr. Mark Kandutsch; Don knew Mark when he was a summer student at the Lab.  Special thanks go to Dr. Vanessa Little and the VNA Home and Hospice for their assistance in his transition.  He couldn’t have been in better hands.  Thanks to the guys from the Firehouse for being there in his time of need.

At Don’s request, there will be no services.  His special charity was the SPCA of Hancock County, 141 Bar Harbor Road, Trenton, Maine, 04605.


Know when to pay your respects.