Varky, Annammal (née John), age 88, of Fort Lee passed peacefully on Saturday, December 9, 2023. She was born in Niranam, Kerala, India, on June 14, 1935, to the late John Daniel and Accamma John.
Beloved wife to the late George Varky, loving mother to Susheela and the late Suresh Varky, Ammal was unable to secure a job teaching math and science – subjects she had taught in India – when she arrived in the U.S. in 1961 due to her accent. However, she enrolled in a
training program offered by IBM at a time when computers looked more like oversized refrigerators. They were willing to train her to do this new thing called “coding.” It turns out she was well-suited to the work and enjoyed a decades-long career in computer programming, mostly for Manhattan Life Insurance at its headquarters at 111 W. 57th Street, New York, NY.
Ammal was an avid tennis player. And she was competitive. A fellow tennis-playing friend recalled that Ammal was often the only person who could ever remember the score. (Ammal did not adhere to the everyone-gets-a-trophy-just-for-participation philosophy.) She used to play regularly with people a good bit younger than she was and liked beating them. When she visited her daughter in Richmond, VA, in the mid-2000s while Susheela was taking a tennis lesson, she joined the tennis lesson. She yelled, “Hit it!” as she swung at those tennis balls the tennis instructor hit her way.
A gifted seamstress, Susheela recalls coming home during and after college. Ammal would look her up and down. The next morning, Susheela had a beautiful dress that fit like a glove. Ammal was also an accomplished cook, contributing recipes to A Taste of India, a beautiful cookbook the proceeds of which supported an orphanage in Kerala.
Ammal’s faith was strong and helped her survive many losses, including that of her husband and son. She was one of the founding members in 1981 of the Mar Thoma Congregation of Greater New York. She was also a member and former deacon of the Presbyterian Church of Leonia. Ammal was a matriarch of the NYC/NJ Malayalee Christian community and supported many new immigrants from Kerala coming to the U.S. for the first time with love, welcome, and support.
She would never say this about herself, but she was a truly stunning woman with a smile that lit up any room and a countenance that made you feel as if you were in the presence of royalty.
There will be a Memorial Service on Thursday, December 21, at 11:00 AM, in The Presbyterian Church of Leonia, 181 Fort Lee Rd, Leonia.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to the Parkinson’s Foundation, which focuses on both patient care and research, https://www.parkinson.org/ The family will receive their friends on Monday, 12/11/23, from 4-8pm at the Frank A. Patti and Kenneth Mikatarian Funeral Home, 327 Main Street, Fort Lee, NJ (opposite the Fort Lee Library). For condolences, directions, or information www.frankpatti.com or call (201) 944-0100.