Let’s Talk Clovis: The Gracious and Generous Roxie Varadian

Roxie Varadian and her class Christmas Tree at Clovis High School. (Clovis Museum)

Roxie (Araxie) was a unique and beautiful individual. She lived a quiet but purposeful life. She would bequeath $400,000 to Clovis organizations at her death.

She was loyal and devoted to her parents and her Clovis High students. She challenged her students to excel not only in class but also in their personal lives. She was and remains an excellent role model for our community.

Her parents, Levon and Vero (Veronica), were born in Kharpert (Harput), Armenia. They were married in 1914 and immigrated to the east coast prior to moving to San Francisco. Roxie (their only child) was born in San Francisco on July 12, 1916. The family arrived in Clovis in 1920.

In June of that year they purchased property ($4,500 at 7 percent per annum) at 618 Fifth Street and established the City Café restaurant. Vero was an excellent cook and it became a popular place to eat.

A 1938 photo displays the informal family décor of their restaurant. There was a long lunch counter with basic stool chairs, a few dining tables, wooden cane chairs and two pinball tables. Vero’s stove was in the far corner behind the counter and customers could watch her prepare delicious meals.

Levon Varadian was in ill health for many years and Roxie began working at the restaurant at an early age. Her close friend, Stella Chaderjian, remembers serving lunch during the Clovis High School lunch period. Stella would receive a “free” meal as compensation.

Roxie received a diploma of graduation from Clovis Elementary School (Pollasky & Second Street) in 1930. A few years prior, in May 1927, she had received a Fresno County Schools certificate stating: “qualities as an Honor Student in the All-Round Physical Development tests of the Fresno County School Department.” 

She excelled in tennis as well as coached tennis. She also coached volleyball in her early career at Clovis High. She remained focused on physical fitness and just a few months prior to her death (88 years), she shared her daily physical training with me.

She received her BA in Education in 1938 from Fresno State College and enrolled in graduate studies at UC Berkeley. She did not find employment in that area and would return to Clovis to assist her mother and father. Roxie began her career at Clovis High School in 1940. She would retire in 1976 after providing 36 years of devoted service to her students.

The vivacious and intelligent Miss Roxie (name given by her peers) would master teaching in a variety of courses that included: math, English, French, social studies, physical education, and business courses (shorthand). She was also a counselor and school librarian for 12 years. She was director of district libraries when she retired.

The family purchased a small wooden home at 620 DeWitt, just south of Bullard. Roxie never married and lived at the home until her death. The exterior and interior of the house were well maintained but never up dated. Many friends were astounded that Roxie had accumulated such a large estate. I remember her as always well dressed and that she usually drove a late model car.

Roxie bequeathed: $100,000 to the Foundation for Clovis Schools, $25,000 to the Clovis Museum and $50,000 Community Medical Center-Clovis. The Fresno County Free Library and the Clovis Senior Center also received large donations.

An article published on May 28. 2004 in The Clovis Independent quoted her estate attorney Robert Bergstrom: “She was not intrinsically a woman of wealth, but she sacrificed luxury for herself so she could accumulate money for others and that is truly remarkable…People like this are prizes.”

She is a part of our rich heritage.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.