DMARC Honors the Life of Harold Varce

Rev. Harold A. Varce, former Executive Director of the Des Moines Area Religious Council, passed away on June 8 at the age of 96.

Varce served as DMARC’s Executive Director from June 1973 to December 1989. Under his leadership, DMARC established its Food Pantry Network (originally known as the Emergency Food Pantry), the Compassion in Action program, Hospice of Central Iowa, the January Thaw interfaith educational series, Life After Death of Spouse (LADOS), and numerous other programs and initiatives. DMARC also transitioned from an ecumenical organization to an interfaith organization during his tenure, welcoming DMARC’s first Jewish congregation, Tifereth Israel Synagogue, into its membership in 1979.

The contributions of Harold Varce to the Des Moines Area Religious Council were immensely significant and have had a lasting impact on the organization. His compassion and love for others will always be remembered at DMARC.

“DMARC would not be what we are today without the foundation built by Harold Varce and fostered and grown by those who came after him,” said DMARC CEO Matt Unger. “Today and forever more, his will be a legacy as one of DMARC’s utmost champions. Those of us at the organization today stand on his shoulders and those others who came before us to build upon that strong foundation he helped to build for us and our community.”

“I have known Harold all my life and prior to COVID would run into Harold and Virginia when I visited my mom at Wesley Acres or Immanuel UMC events,” said DMARC Food Pantry Network Director Rebecca Whitlow. “I have always enjoyed spending time with him. He was such a kind and loving person. He was a blessing to all that knew him.”

“I met Harold when my family moved in next door to him & Virginia, when I was in high school,” said Johnston Partnership Place Program Director Andrea Cook. “Harold’s pastoral spirit was always evident – whether working in his garden, meeting with neighbors over ice cream, or doing yard work for someone who couldn’t keep up, regardless of the reason. He listened quietly, learned intentionally, and stood beside anyone who needed it.”

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at Immanuel United Methodist Church, 2900 49th Street, Des Moines.

For more information about the life of Harold Varce, and to leave a condolence online, visit

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