‘There’s a real sense of emptiness’: St Simons couple killed in Montana train derailment

A Georgia couple from St Simons were two of three killed when an Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana Saturday.

Now, the community is mourning the loss of Don and Margie Varnadoe, described by a local pastor as “kind, generous, sweet-spirited” people.

The Varnadoe’s were a big part of the St Simons community, having been there since the 1970s, Tom Jones, pastor of St Simons United Methodist Church said. The couple were active members of the church for the last six years, Jones told Action News Jax.

”There’s a real sense of emptiness,” he said. Jones was shocked and heartbroken to learn of the Varnadoe’s sudden passing. The couple was touring the West Coast for their anniversary trip. Jones remembers how much they’d been looking forward to it.

”He was so excited about that train trip,” Jones said.

Jones says he had to change his sermon Sunday morning, breaking the news to many in his congregation.

”We’re trying our best to communicate the message of comfort because that’s what the Varnadoes would want.

Don was an active real estate agent and loved his church and community. He helped Jones count money for the church on Mondays. Margie was a teacher and administrator for Glynn County schools.

Jones says both had a way with people. ”Full of life, always wanting to do things,” Jones added.

Jones finds comfort in faith.”We grieve as people who have hope that there is good that could possibly come out of this, and certainly that they’re in God’s hands.”

He knows it’s what the Varnadoes would want. The couple left behind a son, daughter-in-law, and teenage grandson. There will be a celebration of life for the Varnadoes at the St Simons United Methodist Church Saturday morning at 11:00. The public is invited, Jones says.