Travelers Rest woman celebrates 100th birthday

TRAVELERS REST, S.C. — Blanche Styles Varn, a Travelers Rest native and resident, turned 100 years young on Thursday, December 1.

Born December 1, 1916, Mrs. Varn is the daughter of Emery Eskew Styles and Minnie Lee McCauley Styles, who owned a farm on Jackson Grove Road just outside Travelers Rest until their deaths in the late 1950s. The Styles had 13 children: 7 brothers and 6 sisters. Blanche is the oldest sister. Her brother, Troy Styles Sr., started the American Café in 1946 at the current location of the Whistle Stop at the American Café (which is now owned by one of Mrs. Varn’s grand nieces). Of the six sisters, Mrs Varn, Hazel Styles Hayes and Frankie Styles still live in Travelers Rest.

At 22 years old, Blanche Styles met Benjamin Varn Sr., a native of Branchville, SC, and a U.S. Navy veteran, through her father, Emery, an avid checker player who played tournaments throughout South Carolina and North Carolina. Mr. Styles met Mr. Varn at a tournament in Charlotte, NC and invited Varn to come to the Greenville area to play. Blanche and Benjamin met and were later married in Spartanburg, SC in 1939. The new couple moved to Charleston and raised five children. After her husband died, Mrs Varn moved back to Travelers Rest in 1964. She has been in Travelers Rest where she has lived on Poinsett Street ever since.

Mr. Varn was a disabled Navy veteran from the World War I era. Blanche nearly single handedly raised their five children in near poverty while living in a Charleston public housing development, Robert Mills Manor. The family had no car, so Blanche traveled nearly 10 miles one way every week by public bus transportation to the Navy commissary to buy groceries. Amidst the hardship, Blanche raised her children to be excellent students and athletes. Among her children are full scholarship winners to major colleges including The Citadel, Furman University and the US Air Force Academy; all around successful athletes in tennis, basketball, football and track, a high school valedictorian, three state tennis champs, one with a national ranking, a PhD college computer science professor, a successful legal secretary and paralegal, a Green Beret Vietnam War and retired Army veteran, and three retired Air Force officers: a colonel, lieutenant colonel and major.