THOMASVILLE, GA. — Heeth Varnedoe III, who retired in 1997 as president and chief operating officer of Flowers Foods, Inc., died March 27 at the age of 84.

A native of Thomasville and grandson of Flowers Foods’ founder William H. Flowers, Mr. Varnedoe worked at the company during summers of high school and college, first sweeping floors and changing oil in delivery trucks and then running bread routes. He joined the bakery’s sales team as a route salesman after graduating from the University of Georgia. Over the course of his career, Mr. Varnedoe was manager of the company’s Thomasville baking plant, president of Flowers’ bakery division, and executive vice president of operations. In 1980, he was elected to Flowers’ board of directors. He was named president and COO in 1986, a position he held until his retirement.

Active in industry affairs, Mr. Varnedoe was a past chairman of the American Bakers Association and served on the boards of the American Institute of Baking, the Quality Bakers of America, and Southern Bakers. He was a committee member of the International Baking Industry Exposition.

Mr. Varnedoe’s son Heeth Varnedoe IV is a Flowers executive and in December was named chief transformation officer at the company.

Mr. Varnedoe was predeceased by his parents Claire Flowers Varnedoe and Heeth Varnedoe Jr. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Jacqueline P. Varnedoe; four children, Jacqueline Morgan (Robert), Elizabeth Malone (Randolph), Heeth Varnedoe IV (Susan), and Howard Varnedoe (Dawn); 10 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren; a sister, Claire Flowers Thomas; brother-in-law, Bill Ponder (Joanne); as well as nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life will be held Friday, April 9 at 11 a.m. at The Biscuit Co. in Thomasville, following a private service at Laurel Hill Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Fellowship of Christian Athletes, PO Box 466, Thomasville, GA. 31799.