Pauls Valley Democrat
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
Every cliché has some real life meaning to at least one person and one day Pauls Valley residents may find out what all they once had when a certain couple bids farewell this spring.
Though they came to the area at different times in their lives, both Dr. Bruce and Elisse Varner can claim a noticeable impact on their fellow citizens from his practice as optometrist in town for 30 years to her bringing healthy living by introducing Garvin County to Yoga. Of course, the very subject of health is what brought them together, something he hopes to provide through improving eyesight every day.
“What is gratifying is allowing someone to see their world,” said Bruce Varner. “The eyes are your light to the world.”
For Bruce, Pauls Valley was a way he could stick to his passions without leaving his home state of Oklahoma, with his area debut in 1982 when he opened his latest practice at 100 Maxwell Drive. However, it was his love of being an outdoorsman, particularly fishing, which convinced him to relocate from Medford at the time.
“The day they passed the penny sales tax for Longmire was the day I started looking for a lot,” said Bruce, who actually moved to town and had his building constructed by the end of 1981. “Most people think of me as an outdoorsman.”
“If you want to catch a fish, you go with Bruce,” said Elisse.
Elisse, who met Bruce while they were separately on vacation and was invited to come to the area, settled down in the community in June 2004 and didn’t wait long to find people interested yoga as exercise. What started as a curiosity at the Bosa Center grew to a part time gig the Donald W. Reynolds Recreation Center six year later and something the couple could do together.
“Even though my experience has been a quarter of Bruce’s, it’s been wonderful,” said Elisse, who has been an instructor for some time, though it was a long time hobby before that. “From the moment I got here people were very welcoming to me.”
There are two options for those in the yoga frame of mind, with the beginners course offered at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and for those a little more limber the advance class takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays, said Elisse. Complimenting that is Bruce’s 5:30 a.m. stationary bike spinning class for the early birds as well as Elisse’s 5K class.
“I’m just so excited about this Reynold’s center,” said Elisse, noting how Bruce also brings with him previous athletic experience from his own younger days. “Bruce and I are the a.m. crew... It’s Bruce and Elisse in the morning.”
They also discovered how quickly one gets pulled in if someone makes enough effort to better their community. Bruce has spent plenty of hours outside the office volunteering for just about every civic organization from Rotary Club to the Lake Board, though perhaps his greatest memories come from getting to raise two children here, Brook and Bryson.
“People ask me what I do and I’d tell them I don’t have time to know, said Bruce.
Elisse has also on several occasions found joy through various projects through the Pauls Valley Arts Council. When she first arrived she got a chance to get involved in what was the early PV theater scene with “Don’t Drink the Water” and noted how thrilled she was to be cast even though she would have been fine just helping out backstage.
“That was one of the smartest things I’ve done since I came here,” said Elisse, who played the part of Kilroy in her first play before participating in a couple of others. “It was the first opportunity to do something on my own.”
In the end, the Varners have plans to move to the Santa Rosa Beach area in Florida at a to-be-determined date and are currently considering neighborhood options. They will miss the pastures of their land here in Oklahoma, the ponds and even their two donkeys.
As far as the eye doctor business, it is already being transitioned over to another couple, both of them doctors in Scott and Stephanie Mendell. They will continue the tradition of offering a full service clinic which recognizes how no one patient will be like another.
“When you move to a small town you can’t expect things to come to you,” said Elisse.