Stephen Vargo

Resided in Rapid River, MI
Died June 12, 2024

Stephen J. Vargo, age 76, of Rapid River, passed away on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 at UP Health Systems in Marquette.


Stephen was born on February 18, 1948, in Muskegon, the son of John and Betty (Smith) Vargo. He grew up and graduated from Muskegon High School. He was drafted into the United States Army and served in the Vietnam war. He was later honorably discharged. In August of 1970, Stephen was united in marriage to the former Barbara Buchtel and together they shared 53 wonderful years. Stephen worked as a well driller for many years until furthering his education through Western Michigan University to earn his teaching degree. Stephen and Barbara relocated to the upper peninsula for his vocational education teaching job at the Escanaba ISD. He taught there until his retirement in 2006.


Stephen enjoyed woodworking, especially making birdhouses for his neighbors. He was the neighborhood handyman and would help anybody in need. He enjoyed spending his winters traveling to warmer areas with his wife, eventually settling in Texas for many winters. He also was an animal lover. Most of all, Stephen had an incredible sense of humor and was known for the jokes he would tell. It was one of his goals to make someone smile every single day. He will be deeply missed by so many.


Stephen is survived by his loving wife Barbara; sister Gloria Vargo; nephew John (Amy) Vargo; great-nephews Ryan and Lucas Vargo; cousin Mike Weir; as well as numerous special friends, neighbors, and former students.


Stephen was preceded in death by his parents Betty and John, as well as his brother Andrew Vargo.


In lieu of flowers, donations in Stephen’s name may be directed to the Delta Animal Shelter located at 6975 County Road, 426 M 5, Escanaba, MI 49829 or to the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight located at 7480 J Rd, Gladstone, MI 49837.

Family will receive friends on Friday, June 21, 2024 from 11 AM to 12 Noon at the Memorial United Methodist Church of Gladstone. Funeral services honoring Stephen will begin at 12 noon with Pastor Terri Branstrom officiating. Stephen will be laid to rest in Fernwood cemetery, and a luncheon will be held in the church hall following the committal services.

12 Tributes for “Stephen Vargo

    Condolences to Steves wife, Barb, cousin, Mike and all of his family and friends. I met Steve the first time when he and his cousin, Mike crawled under my home and fixed my water heater in my crawl space. He gave his time and sweat to whatever he did. He also gave of his time and knowledge to many kids at the ISD in Escanaba and love and compassion to many furrbabies adopted through the Delta County Animal Shelter and time and support to the shelter along with his wife Barb. I miss his delicious deep fried turkeys on the 4th of July picnics at their home too. He was one of a kind and he will be deeply missed by his family and friends.

    Mr. Vargo(Steve) had a great impact on me when I was his student. He made learn fun and always care about all his students. I will never forget Steve. It was great inspiration for me and was a great friends over the years. Mr. Vargo will be greatly miss by all. RIP in my friend.

    Steve was one of those people that truly left an impression in this world to almost everyone who met him throughout the years, especially his students. I had the privilege of considering Steve a friend, and had him as a past teacher in several vocational education classes throughout high school. I can say that he left the biggest positive influence on me out of any teacher by far. He taught many of us that skills in the trades can take you just as far in life as any college degree can. Steve always seemed to make special connections with all of his students, whether it be through serious conversation, or through many of his daily jokes. He will truly be missed, and of course never forgotten.

    Steve is one of the most generous people I ever met especially when it came to sharing knowledge or helping someone in-need. I had the pleasure of learning from Steve as a student but quickly became a good friend and he was a large inspiration in my career path. Also had the pleasure of spending time with Steve on the ISD Machine Tool Board and traveling the Midwest visiting different equipment suppliers to setup a new manufacturing cluster. Great memories.

    Steve’s presence and generosity will be missed but his legacy will endure forever.

    I met Steve when I delivered gas and welding supplies to the ISD in the Esky high school. He was a great guy and always had a new joke for me. My sympathy to his family!!

    Steve has been a treasured friend to my family for over 50 years. I grew up receiving guidance and direction provided by him, and am a better man for it. He has been a true friend to my parents thru the good and bad. This world, or at least my small portion, has been better off due to him being a part of it throughout the years. Steve will truly be missed.

    In Loving Memory of Mr. Steve Vargo
    During my high school years, I struggled to find a vision or purpose for myself. Many of the classes offered were not particularly interesting to me. However, my life took a pivotal turn when a friend introduced me to the ISD in Escanaba. There, I met Mr. Steve Vargo and his assistant, Tom, and for the first time, I found a subject that truly captivated me: Machine Technology.

    Mr. Vargo was unlike any other teacher I had encountered. He had a unique ability to allow students to learn at their own pace, fostering an environment where I developed a voracious quest for knowledge. Under his guidance, I not only discovered a passion for the subject but also gained invaluable skills that have stayed with me throughout my career as a Mechanical Engineer.

    Mr. Vargo’s influence extended beyond the classroom. He helped me secure a great job and a college scholarship, setting the foundation for my future success. Some of my best memories from high school come from his class, where I formed lifelong friendships and acquired a skillset that I use every day.

    The world is undoubtedly a better place because of people like Mr. Vargo. I often reflect on those times with deep gratitude and can’t thank him enough for the positive impact he had on my life.

    Dear Barb
    So so sorry to hear about Steve’s passing. He was our staple here on Sand Bay. Whether you needed a hand, advice, help, a laugh, his never ending litany of jokes was a marvel that there was always one available. When he ended his 4th of July parties, we inherited his picnic tables. He was a friend that always kept on giving!! I will surely miss him as well as all of Stonington. Now Rest in Peace Steve

    I’m so sorry to hear this sad news. We will all miss Steve’s jokes. He always had a new one, long and short, every time he came to the dental office.

    I met Steve during my first winter in South Texas and quickly became friends with him and Barb. I absolutely loved his awesome humor, his love of all animals and his incrediblely kind generous personality. We spent so much time together and I will be so forever grateful for the wonderful memories. Rest in peace my friend. You will be missed.

    Sending hugs and prayers to Barb and sincere condolences to the rest of his family.

    Barb, so sorry for your loss. Even though
    I didn’t know your husband, your tribute in the paper tells me he was a very caring man.
    Your friend from the shelter.

Post a Tribute

Your email address will not be published. Tributes are moderated before posted. Required fields are marked *