Helen Vari Obituary, Death – Helen Vari’s family mourns her death on March 16, 2023. Helen died quietly at home in Toronto at 91. Helen’s husband, George W. Vari, and brother, Peter Fabinyi, died. Her youngest brother, Paul Fabinyi, her two “daughters,” Agnes Hilkene and Victoria De Luca, and their spouses, Christopher and Jason, survive her. Alexandra Hilkene, Anna-Sophia De Luca, and Isabella Georgina De Luca loved Oma.
The Fabinyi family in Hungary, the Sheely family in the U.S., and many beloved friends worldwide miss Helen. Helen, from Iglo, Hungary, married George in Montreal, Canada, in the early 1960s. Helen and George built a five-continental real estate development and construction enterprise together. To support their philanthropy, they founded the George and Helen Vari Foundation in 1984. Helen restored the Cathedral Dome of the Hôtel National des Invalides in 1989 as President of the World Monuments Fund, France. It was the largest historic building repair before the Vatican Sistine Chapel.
The George and Helen Vari Foundation donated 6,000 Canadian Sugar Maple trees in 2001 to repair the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, and Château de Versailles woodlands. The Ontario Forest and Canadian Forest were named after them. The Vari Foundation also restored Rideau Hall’s Fountain of Hope and forecourt. Helen, Honourary Colonel of the Toronto Scottish Regiment, supported Canada’s military and veterans.
She termed the Toronto Scottish Regiment “The best Regiment in the world” and was the major donor for the Visitor Information Centre and George Vari Gate at the Canadian National Vimy Monument in France. Helen received the Commander Canadian Army Commendation and the Chief of the Defence Staff Commendation from the Canadian Army and Military, respectively. Helen earned the Order of Canada in 2016 for her philanthropy and volunteerism. For her work promoting France-Canada relations, the French government made her a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur and Ordre National du Mérite.
She became one of four Grand Officiers in La Légion d’Honneur in 2021, the only woman in North America. Helen and George’s donation to York University’s main entrance and teaching facilities was a Canadian university’s greatest private grant. Vari Hall was named after them in 1992. Helen provided various scholarships and bursaries to students in addition to their generous donation to The George Vari Engineering & Computing Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University (previously Ryerson University).
She loved “her students” and often said, “We came to Canada with little; Canada gave us everything” and “You can do it!” in her convocation speeches. She has helped thousands of Ontario and international students through multiple colleges. Helen received honorary doctorates from York University, Victoria University at the University of Toronto, Toronto Metropolitan University (previously Ryerson University), Ontario Tech University, St. Francis Xavier University, and Nipissing University for her support.
The family remembers Helen as a passionate Canadian and tireless education advocate. She was powerful, kind, hilarious, and life-loving. She felt most loved when with family and friends. She adored holidays at the Cobourg farm, the August garden party, and walks with family and friends. On Thursday, March 30, 2023, from 2:00-4:30 p.m.,
the Visitation Centre at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, 375 Mount Pleasant Road (east gate entry), Toronto, is open to everybody. 6:30-9:00 p.m. Funeral Mass will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, March 31, 2023. 354 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto, Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Burial and reception at Mount Pleasant Cemetery and Visitation Centre. Donations to the Toronto Scottish Regimental Foundation’s George and Helen Vari Bursary Awards in Helen’s memory are welcome. Visit www.canadahelps.org and look for “Toronto Scottish Regiment Foundation” to donate.