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Longtime Akron trial attorney remembered

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporter

Published: September 18, 2017

Known for his legal prowess, calm demeanor and superior communication skills, attorney Donald Storm Varian, Jr. touched the lives of many over the years, assisting clients in difficult matters and mentoring a number of younger lawyers.

On Aug. 20 Varian passed away at the age of 72, after a short battle with melanoma.

“My dad was a very involved father,” said his son Doug Varian. “He did not wear his emotions on his sleeve but he was at every one of our baseball games or tennis matches.

“No matter how busy he was with his career, he was always there for us.”

Kevin Davis, a senior partner at Davis Law Group, said Varian was “a wonderful example of what a lawyer should be.

“He loved practicing law, knew how to communicate effectively with his clients and kept his cool even during stressful situations.

“He shared office space with my firm and every morning he would come into the office whistling and he would whistle as he left as well,” said Davis. “Even on what would turn out to be his last day at the office when he knew he was facing health problems, he still whistled on the way out.”

Born in Akron on April 8, 1945, he was the second child and first son of Donald and Mary (Morrison) Varian, who had four children.

Varian grew up in Akron, graduating from Buchtel High School. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from The University of Akron.

In 1963, while attending college, he joined the ROTC where he served with distinction in the U.S. Army and later as first lieutenant.

He remained in the military while attending American University Washington College of Law in Washington D.C.

He met his wife, Anne Sargus, when he was in law school.

“When they met, my mom was teaching elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia and she was also a volunteer for the Democratic Party,” said Doug. “My dad was working on Richard Nixon’s campaign so it made for some interesting conversations.”

The two were married in 1970. They lived in Bath Township and had four children.

“My dad was a true Akronite,” said Doug. “He loved the Zips, the Cleveland Indians, the Cavs, the Browns and Swensons.”

Varian began his legal career in the Akron City Prosecutor’s Office.

He then went into private practice, joining Blakemore, Rosen, Miller & Norris, where he focused on defending criminal and civil cases. He later became a partner at Blakemore, Rosen, Meeker & Varian.

“My father was at his best when he was in the courtroom speaking to a jury. He was known for his commanding arguments and examinations and common sense explanations.

“He took great pride in his work and secured large numbers of courtroom victories on a wide range of cases,” said Doug.

After spending more than 20 years with the firm, he became a sole practitioner.

For a number of years, he shared office space with Oldham Company, where Joseph Oldham is a member.

“Don was always confident and positive, no matter how difficult the case he was handling might be,” said Oldham. “He knew exactly what to do in every situation and he would not take on a case unless he was sure he could handle it correctly.

“He was a very nice guy, well respected by judges, prosecutors and police,” said Oldham. “He and I became friends.”

Ninth District Court of Appeals Judge Lynne Callahan first met Varian in the 1980s when she was an Akron police officer.

“Don was an excellent role model, mentor and friend,” said Judge Callahan. “He was always immaculately dressed and a consummate professional.

“As a police officer, I got the chance to observe him during pretrial hearings,” she said. “When I became a judge, he was someone I could go to and bounce ideas off of as to how to improve procedures in the court.

“When he came before me, he was always prepared,” said Judge Callahan. “He was such a gentleman. He managed to maintain a good work-life balance, doing a fantastic job for his clients while spending time with family.

“I thought the world of him.”

From late 2015 to August 2017, Varian’s office was located at 12 E. Exchange St., next to the Davis Law Group.  

“Don was one of my early mentors,” said Davis. “When I was in law school I clerked for the firm he was with (then known as Blakemore, Rosen & Norris).

“In all the years I’ve known him I never once saw him get upset or lose his temper.”

During the time he shared office space with the Davis Law Group, Davis said they brought him in as co-counsel when a matter involved criminal defense or trial work.

“He cut back on his work in 2015, but he never truly retired. In fact, he was living his life exactly how he wanted it be, spending time with family and taking trips while still representing clients.

“It’s a great loss for us all,” said Davis.

A longtime member of the Akron Bar Association, Varian served on the board of East Akron Community House for many years before it closed. He also did a stint on the board at Fairlawn-West United Church of Christ and was president of the condominium association where he and his wife have a condo in Hillsboro Beach, Florida.

In addition, Varian volunteered for the Akron chapter of Blessings in a Backpack, which provides food on the weekends for elementary school children and advocated on behalf of Walsh Jesuit High School and Our Lady of the Elms High School, where his children attended high school.

For most of his life, Varian spent his summers fishing in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. Later in life, his son said he took his children and grandchildren there, teaching them to fish.

“My dad loved nothing more than spending time outdoors with his family and sharing great fishing stories from the lake, ocean or stream,” said Doug.

“He really loved his family.”

Varian was laid to rest with military honors on August 24 at Rose Hill Burial Park.

He leaves behind his wife Anne (Sargus) Varian; his children Lauren Boyle (John) of Arlington, Massachusetts, Keith Varian (Melanie) of Fairfield, Connecticut, Katie Colello (Steven) of Belmont, Massachusetts and Douglas Varian (Jeannie) of Fairlawn, Ohio; grandchildren Katie, Jack and Maggie Boyle, Mallory, Emily, Maxwell and Maeve Varian, Anna, Elsie and Ryan Colello, Audrey, Andrew and Ellie Varian; special niece and nephew Ashley Faris Newlon and Andrew Faris; sisters Linda (Gale) Urda, Ellen (Hans) Kuster and Pamela (Mark) Faris along with many other close nieces and nephews, relatives and friends.


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