Remembering Rick Varchetto
This week I walked through an empty house. Echoing among those walls was a rich story of a man who loved his faith, his family, his friends, his community and his college.
The house, which sits near the tennis courts at Davis & Elkins College, belonged to Rick Varchetto, D&E class of 1969. Upon his death in 2018, Rick left this house and five additional homes surrounding it to the College.
As an entering freshman in 1965, Rick met a fellow classmate named Drake Dowler. According to Drake, it was the spaghetti sauce of Rick’s mom that led him to the Varchetto home and the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Rick and Drake reunited often after their D&E days for Forest Festivals, homecomings and alumni council meetings. Frequent phone calls enabled the two to remain current on the happenings of life, classmates, extended family and career.
When Rick’s beloved mother began to experience failing health, it was Drake he turned to for support. They were together at her bedside when Mrs. Varchetto died. Likewise, Rick was present at the funeral services for Drake’s parents. The depth of this friendship between D&E classmates knew no bounds.
A lifelong resident of Elkins, Rick followed his mother into teaching and spent 40 years teaching math and molding young lives, mostly at Elkins Middle School. He was a founding member and eventual president of the Elkins Emergency Squad, a leader of the Elkins Lion Club and a faithful member of St. Brendan Catholic Church in Elkins. A lover of chess, Rick founded the Chess Club at Elkins Middle School and was a fixture during the summers at Elkins City Park playing and teaching chess.
Rick had a heart for people. He owned rental property around his home and used these properties as much to provide needed shelter as a source of income. A little girl and her mother experiencing difficult times met Rick in the park as he played chess, and this encounter led him to build a home for the two of them. That was the heart of the person who lived within the walls that I recently walked.
In his later years, Rick encountered significant health issues. Thanks to Drake, I met him for breakfast one morning in 2017. Shortly after the death of his mom, Rick established an endowed scholarship at D&E in memory of his mother. Now, he was deliberating what to do with his properties. Wanting to ensure that values-based higher education remained available to the young people of Randolph County and beyond, Rick ultimately decided to leave these to the College. His wish was that his alma mater would continue to influence students to dedicate their lives to service and compassion, just as he did with his life.
Walking that empty house this week, I could hear the echo of the compassionate life story of Rick Varchetto among those walls. We only have one life, and I thank God that Rick made his a meaningful one that continues to influence others.
The journey continues…