Remembering Curtis ‘Curt’ Claude Varnam, 62, translated intercepted Russian messages for the president

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With an IQ clocked above 150, Curtis “Curt” Claude Varnam was a highly valued member of the U.S. Navy. To say he had a high security clearance was an understatement: As a Navy cryptologic technician, Mr. Varnam decoded and translated messages in support of national intelligence.

Mr. Varnam, of Supply, died June 21, 2015, at Brunswick Cove Nursing Center after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 62.

As a soldier, Mr. Varnam was sent all over the United States and to foreign countries to study other languages. He learned seven languages total, including Russian and Spanish. He was as proficient at speaking them as he was at speaking English according to his brother, Dale Clemmons.

His skills were put to use in submarines off the coast of Russia, where messages were intercepted by Americans, translated by Mr. Varnam and sent to the White House.

“He knew the headlines that would be printed before they were printed,” Mr. Clemmons said.

He loved the time he spent serving his country and he loved his job, Mr. Clemmons said. The Navy allowed him years of travel, something he loved to do, and after being honorably discharged he continued to travel internationally.

“He had itchy feet,” his brother laughed. “Curt just disappeared. He’d say ‘See ya in two weeks,’ then call two months later from Mexico. That was just Curt.”

Mr. Varnam made a lot of friends along the way. According to Mr. Clemmons, he used his prior experience as an orderly to care for people suffering from AIDS, then stayed with their families to help after their deaths. There are countless letters from others of all nationalities thanking him.

When his own death was drawing near, Mr. Varnam asked to be cremated and “wanted his ashes sent everywhere.” He gave his brother a list of 10 people in the United States, Mexico and India to whom he wanted his ashes sent. Since his death, many others have reached out to Mr. Clemmons asking for ashes and now dozens of people will help spread his ashes worldwide. His family will hold a service at a later date.

He was born Oct. 16, 1952, in Brunswick County, son of the late Curtis and Lawnie Clemmons Varnam.

Surviving are his brother, Dale Clemmons, of Supply and uncle, Ralph Varnam, of Varnamtown.

Please leave online condolences for the family at Brunswick Funeral Service.

To view the full list of Port City Daily obituaries, click here.

Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for Port City Daily. Reach her at 910-772-6319 or obits@portcitydaily.com.