Flowers, trees, sparkling lakes, and four-leaf clovers called to Mimi. She always answered – handing a walking partner a four-leaf clover or laying her hands on the tree’s trunk encouraging it to “stay strong.” Mimi loved her Father’s world and shared that love with those lucky enough to walk with her. Perhaps she welcomed you into her home and you found yourself surrounded by skeins of yarn, glass paper weights, and signs of love on walls and mirrors. Or perhaps she served you a fresh salad made from her garden vegetables or a wonderful plate of her Vietnamese egg rolls or her homemade whole grain bread with homemade jam. Maybe she sent you a card with just a warm hello or a word of encouragement, or called you when you were in the midst of a personal crisis to say “You’ve been on my mind lately. How are you doing?” Or you called her on the phone to receive her customary “Hello Hello!” Whatever it was, it was filled with love and optimism.

Marie Rene (Mimi) Varberg was born on February 18, 1947, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She studied German and English at Concordia College and shared her love of learning as a teacher at grade levels ranging from junior high English to college-level speech. She also served as principal of Heartland Christian elementary school in Bemidji, Minnesota. During her undergraduate years at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, she toured all 48 continental states with the Concordia choir.

Mimi married Tom Varberg on September 18, 1976, at the Bald Eagle Outdoor Learning Center near Cass Lake, MN. They raised their two daughters in Bemidji as well as seventeen foster children. After thirty years, she and Tom moved to Salinas, CA, and then retired to Lakewood, Ohio, to be near their children and grandchildren. While in Salinas, she volunteered at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop and the John Steinbeck House, and she served as a marshal for ten years at the AT&T pro-am at the Pebble Beach golf course.

Mimi’s joys and loves were heard in the Gospel songs she wrote and sang as well as in Mischief, Messes, and God’s Grace – a devotional she published while raising her children. She and her husband recorded three albums of her music: Let the Desert Be Glad, Step on the Sea, and Delivered. She loved Hart Lake, a three-generation family home.

Mimi loved a bargain and kept thrift shops in business. One of her favorite games was “Guess how much?” as she grinned and announced the low low price she had paid for something beautiful.

Mimi attended New Life Church in Lakewood, Ohio. She was guided by and lived her faith in Jesus Christ. She was a fierce defender of what she believed was right. Her legacy is wrapped in warmth and love for all.

Mimi passed away in her home surrounded by and cared for by her husband, daughters and Loc Nguyen of Clovis, CA, (her son through foster care). She truly had “angels on her bumpers” –a parting message she regularly gave to others.

Mimi was preceded in death by her parents, Virgil and Alice Gustafson of Goodland, MN. She is survived by her husband of 46 years; her daughters Kara Varberg, Lakewood, OH, and Krista Afumbom, Lakewood, OH; two grandchildren, Abigail Afumbom and Kai Afumbom; three brothers Roger Gustafson (Sarah) of Goodland, MN; Thomas Gustafson (Mary) of Perham, MN; John Gustafson (Julene) of Pengilly, MN.

A celebration of life will be held at New Life Church, Lakewood, Ohio, July 8, 2023, at 2:00 pm EST with refreshments and a time of sharing to follow in the reception hall. The service will be livestreamed at .
Memorials preferred to Hospice of the Western Reserve.

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One Comment

  1. Robert Ruff April 6, 2024 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    I am sorry for Mimi’s passing, which is a great loss to her family. I never met Mimi in life, but know I would have adored her. She was a warm loving woman with a galactic heart. She brings to mind the memory of my wife Suzanne’s grandmother Julia.

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