Ruth S. Varner

Monday, October 17, 2022, our cherished Ruth Suggs Varner peacefully joined the eternal ancestry.  Though we will miss her greatly, we rejoice in knowing that she is at peace in the loving arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, after living a full and productive 80 years.


Ruth, the eldest daughter of the late Dearee Elizabeth Mayfield Suggs and the late Willie G. Suggs was a native of Atlanta, Georgia.  She spent her formative years on McDaniel Street with her mother, Aunt “Doll”, siblings Ada Mae and Willie and Cousin Vivian. She was educated in the Atlanta School System, after which she went on to graduate from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta.


As her hometown became central to the push for Civil Rights, Ruth joined the movement participating in numerous Civil Rights marches in the 1960s. Ever the activist, she then took on the difficult task of integrating Columbia Theological Seminary. Earning her master’s degree in Christian Education, Ruth became the first Black person to graduate from the seminary. During those difficult days of fighting racism and sexism in the seminary and in the community, Ruth was introduced to her eventual husband, Rev. Dr. Samuel Lee Varner to whom she was married for 43 years. Together they would go on to travel the world and serve churches and communities wherever they made their home. 


A survivor of sexual harassment, sexual battery, and acquaintance abuse, Ruth devoted her career to helping others. She served as a teacher and director of children's care centers and as a coordinator for the Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association. Later as the family moved to Virginia, she lent her experience as a Rape and Assault Support counselor for the YWCA Sexual Assault Response Program. Ruth ended her career as a Christian educator for the United Church of Christ’s Southern Conference.


Valuing her Native American heritage and African roots and experiences, Ruth also devoted much of her life to the community. She served the community as a trauma counselor. A den mother for Ohio Boys Scout Troops. She served on numerous church committees, coordinated cultural events, and co-founded cultural arts groups and culturally based female mentorship programs, namely ‘Sisters Preserving The Kulture’ (SPK) for the Uhuruu Cultural Center. Ruth also enjoyed teaching arts and crafts and hosting holiday events. She was an active member of the Columbus, Ohio Alumnae chapter and, later, the Chesapeake-Virginia Beach chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Ruth was also a Phi Delta Kappa, which is a  professional organization for educators.


Ruth, along with Sam, was one of the early celebrants and advocates of Kwanzaa from its beginnings. She began introducing Kwanzaa to others in Brooklyn, New York, in 1967 and promoted this practice in Columbus, Ohio, in 1976 and later brought the tradition with her to the Hampton Roads area in 1988. Known by many as 'The Story Weaver,' Ruth was famous in Ohio and Virginia as an African and Christian Storyteller and performed professionally in schools, churches, Universities, and community events through the years. 


Creative always, Ruth was the author of several books, which include “My Legacy”….Growing Up Black, Caring for God’s People, and Two Hugs and Two Kisses: The Death of a Grandparent.  She spent many hours crafting.  Both of her sons, clients and family members have Jumped the Brooms she created. Ruth made and sold “Sister Pins” and then learned to craft necklaces and bracelets sold in local stores.  One of her newest creations were cards shaped like shoes, boots, and purses.  All her grandchildren have learned to be creative sitting around the dining table or on the floor, working with her on projects.



Ruth Moon Mayfied Suggs Varner, as she later called herself, will be dearly missed by her friends, family, sorority, and community. We may all rest assured that she transitioned with great expectations of seeing her creator, her savior, and those who preceded her in death, including her mother Dearee Suggs, her father, Willie Suggs, her niece Dedra Ragland, and her husband, Rev. Dr. Samuel Varner.


She is survived by her son Seko Varner (Rhonda), son Daniel Varner (Hope Dori), daughter Elizabeth Varner, grandchildren Karina Varner, DeMya Tolliver, Baldwin-Akin Varner, Rukiya Varner, Dominique Varner, Drew Varner, great-grandchildren Chavez Hines, Cameron Hines, sister Ada Mae Ragland, brother Willie Suggs, sister-cousin Vivian Russell, brothers-in-law Harvey Varner (Willa), Walter Varner (Delores), sisters-in-law Virginia Varner (Domingo), Annie Varner, Julia McFarlane, and goddaughter Jennifer Perry-McClain and the Perry family along with a host of cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and life-long friends.


This service will be Live Streamed, and videos will remain on Facebook and Youtube: