Deborah Warnaar ’81

Deborah Lynn Warnaar (Debbie) died on October 15, 2022, at her home in Rockingham County, Virginia, after living with a rare cancer for five years.

She was born on October 22, 1959 in Michigan and grew up in Grand Haven, on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Her parents Donald and Gail (Leonard) Warnaar instilled a love of celebrating each season with outdoor activities: sledding, ice skating and cross-country skiing in the winter, followed by camping, hiking, backpacking, bicycling, bicycle touring, and swimming in the summer. She continued to enjoy these activities (especially bicycling) throughout her life, and added kayaking in recent years.  Music was also a gift from her parents, and an integral part of her life.  She began violin at age 5 and continued to play and perform with academic, community and professional symphonies throughout her life.

While living in Harrisonburg, she performed with the EMU and JMU orchestras, as well as the Waynesboro Symphony.  Prior to that, she was with the Richmond Symphony.  Debbie also supported the arts as a long-time volunteer usher with the Forbes Center.  Her short retirement also found her volunteering at the JMU Arboretum and Ten Thousand Villages.

Debbie graduated from Hope College in 1981 with a BA in Physics.  She was also very active in the music department, which is where she discovered and won over the love of her life, Brian Bauer (Biology/Trumpet).  They married on July 31, 1982, and recently celebrated 40 years together!  Debbie earned her PhD in Chemical Physics from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1991, and then spent her career teaching in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at James Madison University 1992-2021.  She was recognized with several awards for both teaching and academic advising.  This was her dream career; she truly enjoyed her work, her colleagues and students.

In addition to her career and life with family and friends, Debbie had several grand adventures: one was leading JMU students in eight study abroad programs to London (2006-2016), another was bicycling for 6 weeks in the Indian Himalayan Mountains (2016), and a third was her five year journey with cancer (2017-2022).  A fourth and most life-changing adventure was, together with Brian, raising their daughter, Becca, and getting to know her as an accomplished adult.  All of these adventures challenged her to learn, adapt, and grow, while bringing different kinds of satisfaction and joy into her life.

Debbie was predeceased by her father Don Warnaar and Brian’s parents Willa and Roger Bauer.

Survivors include her beloved husband of 40 years, Brian Bauer ’82, and their adult daughter Rebecca Bauer.  She is also survived by folks from the previous generation:  mother Gail Warnaar, bicycling parents Moira and Graham Horne, special aunt Marjie Leonard, and uncles Jim Leonard and Steve Warnaar.  Debbie counted herself fortunate to include as dear friends her sisters and brothers by blood and marriage, as well as their children:  Laura and Bruce Hood and their adult children Ian Hood and Jessie Hood, Linda Warnaar and her son Bohdi Danforth, Randy and Leslie Bauer and their adult children Steven Bauer and Emma Bauer Elms, and Ken and Kristin Bauer.  Debbie felt very lucky and privileged to be part of this active, fun, loving and supportive family.

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