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Varah, Chad 1911-2007 (Edward Chad Varah)

Varah, Chad 1911-2007 (Edward Chad Varah)


See index for CA sketch: Born November 12, 1911, in Barton-on-Humber, Lincolnshire, England; died November 8, 2007, in Basingstoke, England. Anglican priest, crisis hotline founder and counselor, and author. In 1953, when attempted suicide was illegal in England, Varah created the Samaritans, a telephone crisis hotline, that offered a sympathetic ear and nonjudgmental counseling to the depressed, lonely, and frightened people on the verge of ending their own lives. Despite his long career as a priest of the Church of England, and despite the biblical reference in the organization's very name, Varah insisted that the help center remain totally secular and completely "civilian." Volunteers and callers alike remained anonymous, no attempt at religious conversion was permitted, and there was no connection to police agencies or legal authorities. The hotline was successful beyond its founder's expectations, expanding to several hundred centers throughout the country and many others abroad, where they operated as Befrienders Worldwide. That was not Varah's only claim to fame. An ordained priest since the mid-1930s, who spent fifty years as the rector of the Lord Mayor's Parish Church of St Stephen Walbrook in London, his views on moral issues and sexual behavior were decidedly liberal. Varah was an outspoken supporter of sex education, legalized abortion, gay rights, and pornography, for example, and he refused to condemn adultery. He wrote the column "Christian Lib" for Forum magazine in England and contributed to Penthouse magazine in the United States. Varah received many awards for his charitable works. He was decorated a commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1995 and a Companion of Honour in 2000. He received the Louis Dublin Award of the American Association of Suicidology in 1974 and a lifetime achievement award from Pride of Britain in 2000. Varah was the coauthor of The Samaritans: To Help Those Tempted to Suicide or Despair, published originally in 1965 and revised several times under various similar titles. He published his autobiography, Before I Die Again, in 1992. Incidentally, he had supplemented his income in the 1950s by writing copy for British comic books.



Varah, Chad, Before I Die Again, Constable (London, England), 1992.


Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2007, p. B9.

New York Times, November 10, 2007, p. B10.

Times (London, England), November 10, 2008, p. 82.

Washington Post, November 10, 2007, p. B6.

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