Randi Varney offered a warm welcome to customers at Varney's Restaurant...

Randi Varney offered a warm welcome to customers at Varney's Restaurant in Brookhaven. Credit: Varney family

People came for the lobster rolls, but came back for the smiling host.

Randi Varney, a co-owner with her husband of Varney’s Restaurant in Brookhaven, was the face of that casual, un-fancy but well-regarded spot, where a celebrity who lives locally might show up as just one of the regular regulars. 

“She just showed love to everyone,” said her husband, Will Varney, of East Patchogue. “It was amazing” — particularly because for nearly two decades, Randi Varney was in and out of remission for the breast cancer that eventually took her life on March 20 at Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue, where she had been born 66 years earlier when it was Brookhaven Memorial.

In a tragic parallel, she had been diagnosed at 47, the same age as her mother, who also died of the disease, said her eldest sibling, attorney Ernest Wruck, of Eastport.

Their father,  an attorney, “had lost his wife, and for a little bit he was struggling with that,” the brother said.

Randi, the third of six children, left college at 19 to help raise the three youngest, then ages 13 to 17.

“She became the wheel that held everything together,” said Wruck. “And she never said a bad word about it and never complained about it.”

As a mother herself years later, “She was very protective of us, about the cancer,” said her youngest son, Andrew Varney, of Baltimore. “She made sure anything she was telling us protected us from a lot of what she was going through. She wouldn’t really go into the details and really just focused on us.”

Indeed, she and her husband became fixtures at their children’s high school sporting events. “The coaches all knew her,” said Andrew Varney, “because she was the loudest mom on the sidelines.”

Randi Lynn Wruck was born Oct. 5, 1957, and raised in Brookhaven, one of six children of the late Ernest Wruck and Betty Powers. “She was a bit of a tomboy,” said her brother Ernest. “She could run, jump, play tennis, baseball, probably football with us.” The family kept horses, and Varney grew up riding. She would rise early to ride a horse down William Floyd Parkway to Smith Point beach on Fire Island. 

She attended Seton Hall High School in Patchogue before it closed in 1974,  completing her courses at Bellport High School, where she played varsity tennis.

As an adult, Varney worked at the Patchogue branch of Union Savings Bank. “She was the head teller, and she used to train men to become managers, yet because she was a woman, they didn't make her a manager,” her husband recalled. Their first date, he said, was to see the Charlie Daniels Band in a show released as the 2020 album “Live at the Nassau Coliseum May 4, 1979.”

She left the bank when her husband-to-be, a restaurant cook, suggested they open their own place. Taking over what Wruck called “kind of a breakfast-and-lunch truck stop” called Junior’s, the couple launched Varney’s Restaurant on Aug. 1, 1981, and were married that Sept. 16. A friend, Bill Lengyel, came on as a Varney’s co-owner in 1983.

Randi Varney is survived by her husband; their sons, Danny, of Brookhaven, Jay, of Yaphank, and Andrew; her siblings, Scott, of Pittsburgh, Joseph, of Center Moriches, James, of Newtown, Connecticut, Bonnie Wruck Fishman, of Bellport, and Ernest; and three grandchildren, Mason, Hunter and Hazel.

A memorial was held Tuesday at Robertaccio Funeral Home in Patchogue. Donations may be made to The Post-Morrow Foundation for local land preservation.

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