John Vargo


John Vargo

Nicknames: John Bud Vargo Executive Director

Date of Birth: November 12, 1932
Date of Death: January 31, 2003

John A. “Bud” Vargo, 70, of 412 W. Ohio Street, Marquette, died early Friday morning, January 31, 2003 at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.

Mr. Vargo was born on November 12, 1932 in Kingsford, Michigan to the late John and Angeline (Galezzi) Vargo. He was a 1950 graduate of Kingsford High School. After graduation, John enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving his country from 1951 – 1955. He then returned to the Upper Peninsula and attended Northern Michigan University receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education and social work in 1960.

John then joined the staff of the Bay Cliff Health Camp where he was employed as executive director from 1960 until his retirement in 1991.

An active and devoted participant in community activities, John was a member of the Marquette Kiwanis Club since 1961 where he also served as past president. He served on the committee to plan, construct and operate the Marquette Lakeview Arena, was a member of the Michigan Crippled Children Commission, served as a U.P. representative of the Michigan United Cerebral Palsy Association and was a member of the board of directors of the Marquette-Alger Alzheimer’s Association where he served as co-chair of the fundraising committee.

The sport of ice hockey was very important in Bud’s life. He was an active member of the Marquette Junior Hockey Corporation board of directors from 1965 – 1980 serving as its president from 1968 – 1974. In 1975 he became a member of the Michigan State Hockey Association board serving as president from 1980 – 1981 and secretary/treasurer from 1984 – 2001. He also served on the USA Hockey national board of directors from 1984 – 1993. During his tenure with USA Hockey he served on its international council in 1986, was director of national tournaments from 1986 – 1991, was host of the Russian hockey team in 1990 and was general manager of Team North in the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1993.

Survivors include three special sons, John H. Vargo of Marquette, David (Marybeth) Vargo of Lakewood, CO and Gary (Sandy Atherton) Vargo of Big Bay; 12 cherished grandchildren, Chad, Clayton and Clark Vargo, Brian and Patrick Vargo, Kimberly, Kayla and Tyler Vargo, Lana, Louis, Jessica and James Atherton; also several nieces and nephews. Preceding him in death besides his parents was his beloved wife, Ann E. Vargo on August 9, 1992, a granddaughter, Kelsey Ann Vargo on May 2, 1991 and a sister, Shirley Johnson.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday at 10 a.m. in St. Michael Catholic Church with the Rev. Lawrence Gauthier officiating. Interment will take place in the Big Bay Cemetery. Friends may call at the Canale-Tonella Funeral Home on Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. where a parish prayer service will be conducted at 5:30 p.m. Visitation will also take place on Monday from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m. at the church.

Pallbearers will be Chad and Clayton Vargo, Greg Mingay, Richard Kortum, Ralph Bammert and Gerry Conley.

Those wishing to make an expression of sympathy are kindly asked to consider the Bay Cliff Health Camp, 310 W. Washington St., Marquette, MI 49855 or the Marquette Junior Hockey Corporation, P.O. Box 992, Marquette, MI 49855.

Mr. Vargo’s obituary and family photos can also be viewed at where relatives and friends may leave a note of remembrance in his guestbook.

Bud’s Eulogy

February 3, 2003

By Gary Vargo

I would like to try and share some thoughts with you about Bud’s life.

So many thoughts—So many Memories.

Thank you all for being with us today. We know many of you had to travel a long way to get here. We would like to invite all of you to join us for refreshments immediately after the service.


We are all here today because of the death of John “Bud” Vargo—But lets Celebrate his life.

As most of you are aware—Bud has wore many different hats in his lifetime. He was a:

–A Sailor

–A Husband

–A Dad

–A Grandpa

–A Uncle

–A Boss/ A Camp Director

–A man who held many different positions within the hockey community

–A true friend

Bud was the type of man who once he touched your life—you would never forget him.

Life placed many hills in front of Bud—Not too often did you hear him complain—he simply climbed to the top only to find another hill waiting in the horizon.

As many of you are aware—Buds quality of life, since his last stroke in July, was not the best—but he never gave up the fight. Bud was not able to hold much of a conversation—but he knew what you were saying. The biggest frustration was his inability to communicate back with people.

Bud truly enjoyed all the visitors while in the hospital as well as at the Jacobetti Center. The planters—the flowers—all the cards and well wishes brightened up his room as well as his spirits.

We all know that someday we will die—We knew under the circumstances, with Bud’s health, that is was most likely going to happen sooner than later—but it does not make it any easier when the end comes.

Yesterday at the Funeral home-Buds Granddaughter-Kayla spoke of what Grandpa Bud meant to the Grandchildren. She talked about the fun times they had with him. She spoke about understanding that he is no longer suffering and is in a better place—but at the same time how hard it was the other day when he died. After she was done talking, we played a song that she felt was fitting—the song “THE IMPOSSIBLE”. Some of the words from the song are:

–Unsinkable ship, sink

–Unbreakable walls, break

–Sometimes the things you think/ or wish would never happen—happen just like that.

This is truly how we felt when we were told that Bud had died.

Bud had 3 main LOVES in his life:


2—Bay Cliff


I would like to take a moment to touch on each of these.


Dad was a loving husband to his wife Ann. They like most had there UP’s and down’s—but they stayed together. Looking back, I see Mom & Dad working together and laughing together. Bud started a new job just out of college. Our Mom went back to college while Bud spent a lot of time on the road with his job raising money for Bay Cliff—all the time raising us 3 boys. We moved to Big Bay every June and moved back to Marquette in the fall.

(Us 3 boy’s) what can be said for the 3 boys—John-David-Gary

I will say that the three of us each had a unique relationship with our Dad.


I believe one way to describe our fathers love for us boy’s is: “His love is like the sun—you may not always see it—but you always know it is there.

Bud and his Grandchildren:

–They all had a very special place in his heart. He never hesitated in showing his love—if it was with a Kiss or a Hug or a special Nickname (like George)—they enjoyed him just the same.

Like most Grandparents, he was never short on stories from the past. Each time Bud shared a story-he would put his own little twist on it—just enough to keep the kids attention. Bud saw some challenges when it came to the kids. Thru the early years, Ann was always there to take care of the Birthday & Christmas presents. After her passing, Bud knew it was something he had to now do. Thou his heart was always in the right place-he often had trouble expressing it—I remember one year when Tyler was about to turn Six—Bud told me that he had gotten Tyler a Savings Bond. He asked me if I thought he would enjoy that—I took a breath and said thank you and then asked him if when he turned 6, if he would of enjoyed a savings bond. I said “I think he would much better enjoy a Fire truck or some sort of toy. He took a pause and I just knew now he understood. Again—his heart was in the right place.
As time went on, it became harder and harder for him to attend the children’s school & sports events—But when he did make it to a game-he would often sit on main floor right next to the team bench. You could often hear the players on the bench joking about putting Grandpa Bud into the game. It became an on-going joke at the games.
I know that Bud had some of the same affects on his Nephews & nieces.

(BAY CLIFF) (have keys and ask people to close eyes)

Bud and Bay Cliff—I would like to share some thoughts that some staff members had passed along to Bud. Some are from letters sent during Buds 20th Anniversary at Bay Cliff back in 1979.

–Bud alone was never Bay Cliff—and Bay Cliff alone was never Bud. A friend once wrote: Mr. Bud, you are a mirror from which Bay Cliff reflects—you are reflected into those around you. —Your leadership—your kindness—your love—your understanding.

Rick Russell wrote of Bud and Bay Cliff: Bay Cliff has a nurturing spirit where all persons are given an opportunity to grow. It is only through your patients, guidance and dedication-that this spirit has evolved and still exist—so while you have received the thanks of teachers, parents and handicapped over the years, please allow me to offer a Thank you from all of us fortunate enough to have worked with you.

The following was written in part by Fritz Brisco:

Bay Cliff is an absolutely remarkable phenomenon. It is a whole collection of tangibles and intangibles tightly held together by the Bay Cliff Spirit. The Bay Cliff spirit, by the very nature of the term “spirit” should be some elusive thing that we all talk about but never really nail down, because, of course, it is an intangible! Instead, it is a very real feeling that affects everyone who works at Bay Cliff!! Everyone knows and understands and talks about the Bay Cliff spirit as if it were normal for it to be a part of every staff member—

–There are no stars at Bay Cliff—it has been said many times—and I am inclined to believe that, except for the one we are here to honor today. And yet, I suspect that the Bay Cliff spirit would continue regardless of who was on the staff. (And I believe that Tim Bennett will agree that the spirit has continued).

–The years spent at Bay Cliff will always be remembered as an extra special time in my life. The things I learned there are still being used. As I think back, certain memories always come to mind:

–Ervin Edson leading the Marquette City Band

–Penny, from New Jersey, learning to walk

–Sauna’s at the Maki camp

–Mother Maki’s Stew

–The Norman D

–Going to the dump to watch the bears

–Mr. Nummy—Vi—Mae—Mrs. Garvin and the other “old-timers”

I think it is best summed up when said:

“I know of no other place on earth where idealism is magically transformed into realism.


This is an area that just is a little hard to understand. For the most part, people know the things Bud had done for Marquette JR Hockey—Michigan Amateur hockey as well as USA Hockey—But how many of you know that Bud Never was on a pair of skates. He never played the game. He started coaching in the 60’s when both David and I began playing. I have tried to understand what it was that made a man like Bud put in so many hours & years into a sport that he never played. I understand why some get involved with a sport that there children participate in—that what Bud did in the beginning—but he was only getting started by the time both David & I were out of hockey. Most parents then would leave the sport as well—not Bud or many of his close friends in the same shoes (some of which are here today) Bud loved the challenge. He loved to work hard at making sure that the hockey in the U. P. was on a level playing field as downstate. He loved going away to hockey meetings and being with that group of friends.

So why did Bud stay so committed to the sport—PASSION–COMMA ROD A REE. He truly loved the people he was involved with as well as the sport itself. And-he had a hard time saying no.

There is nothing stronger than a heart of a volunteer.

I remember my Dad strapping on my goalie pads at a very early age. I remember my Mom & Dad being at our hockey games—if they were in Marquette or at some away site. I am coaching my boy’s hockey team this year and I now understand why the hockey parents enjoy those road-trips so much. I remember once my dad standing at our locker room door waiting to give me a hug when I just let in the easiest goal in a double over-time game during the championship game of the tournament –He was just so proud of the effort.

I would like to close by saying:

On behalf of John—David and myself, we would like to Thank you all for sharing this time with us. We would like to Thank all of Bud’s caregivers—A special Thank You to the 3 nurses who were with Bud at the very end. All of you worked so hard to keep his quality of life as good as possible. Thanks to all of Buds family and friends who were able to visit with him—everyone who sent cards or flowers—Greg for the Sports Illustrated and everyone who just asked how he was doing. A big Thank you to the young lady who would spend most of her lunches with him—that was a date the he looked forward to everyday.(the young lady is my girlfriend-Sandy)

We will each walk away today feeling a bit sadder because we truly miss our Dad—our Grandpa—our Uncle–our friend. It is only human nature to feel sad when a person so close dies.


We also should all walk away from here today feeling a little bit better—knowing that Bud is now in a much better place. He is now with so many friends and family. —Someone said the morning Bud died—just think—when Ann got up today to have her early morning coffee—there was Bud sitting at the table waiting for her—–Thank You

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