Judge Varco dies at age 68

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Sherburne County District Court Judge Robert Varco has died at age 68.

Judge Robert Varco
Judge Robert Varco

He had been appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura as a judge in 2000 and held the position until his death from urothelial cell kidney cancer on May 27.

“I’ve worked with a lot of judges in my career, and he was just an extraordinary judge,” said Sherburne County Court Administrator Pat Kuka.

He was instrumental in moving to more modern and efficient court calendar system in Sherburne County and in individually assigning cases to judges so they could work on them from start to finish, she said. He also was the driving force behind getting a jail treatment program in place in Sherburne County so people have the opportunity to go through treatment for addictions while incarcarated. The program was very innovative at the time and has been very successful, Kuka said.

One of the things Kuka said impressed her about the judge was that he always treated the people who came before him with respect and dignity.

“He was just an outstanding judge and an outstanding public servant,” she said. “We miss him deeply here.”

According to his obituary, Varco found a true calling as a judge and was a fierce advocate for the under-served. It was his priority to protect the dignity of the most vulnerable.

Varco attended St. Mark’s Grade School in St. Paul and Campion Jesuit High School. He graduated from the University of Minnesota and William Mitchell College of Law. After serving on the staff of Attorney General Warren Spannaus, he taught at Hamline University Law School and University of South Dakota Law School. He then moved to private practice with friend, John Berglund at Berglund & Varco in Anoka, before being appointed a judge.

His brother Richard said, “Bob was never more at ease than when afield hunting or in the fishing boat. In both his public and private lives, this generous man left the campsite better than he found it,” according to his obituary.

He is survived by his wife Susan Pappas-Varco; daughter, Elizabeth Varco, “EB”; mother, Louise Varco; seven siblings and numerous in-laws.

He had great admiration for physicians providing medical service in third world countries and requested memorials to University of Minnesota Foundation, Dr. Todd M. Tuttle/International Medical Mission Trip Fund, P.O. Box 64001, St Paul, MN. 55164-0001.