VARN, Lt. Col Fred Harwell USAF (Ret.), 89, of St. Petersburg, passed away July 28, 2013. Born in Jacksonville, raised in Dade City, he was attending the University of Florida when WWII began. He signed up for the Aviation Cadet program and upon completion and promotion to 2nd Lt., received an overseas assignment. On May 20, 1944, Fred joined the 404th Fighter Group, 507th Squadron at a base in southern England. He flew his first combat mission on May 31st at the age of 20. Fred flew 2 missions on June 6, 1944 D-Day. His outfit, flying P-47 Thunderbolt fighters, supported the front forces, participating in every major battle from D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge. He had flown 76 missions before he was old enough to vote. When the war ended, Fred had flown a total of 97 missions in his P-47 named the Fightin' Gator for his college mascot. Fred returned to civilian life briefly and went back to the University of Florida earning his Associate degree in Accounting. He was recalled for the war in Korea and later flew in Viet Nam where he was exposed to Agent Orange. Ensuing health problems resulted in his status as a Disabled Veteran. Fred remained on active duty until he retired in 1968 after 27 service years. During that time, he flew F-86 Fighters, B-47 Bombers, & C-141 Transports. During his military service Lt. Col. Varn received many U.S. decorations and awards, including the Air Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters. Additionally, he received the French Croix de guerre w/Palm and the Belgian Fourragere. His love of flying continued into civilian life and for several years he owned a Mooney M-20C, flying just for fun. He and his wife Ruth loved to travel and visited various parts of the world. Favorites include 9 trips to England to explore England's inland canals in rented narrow boats. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Ruth; his five children, Doug (Janet), Linda (David), John (Donna), Thomas (Gayle), and Theresa; 13 grandchildren; 3 great-grandchildren; his sister, Jeanette; his brother, Glenn, and their children. A memorial service will be held 11 am, Thursday, Aug. 1st, at Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, 2201 Dr. M.L. King Jr. Street North, St. Petersburg. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Millville Army Air Field Museum, 1 Leddon Street, Milleville Airport, Milleville, NJ 08332.
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Published in the Tampa Bay Times on July 31, 2013