He didn't for another 23 years, but he suffered severe injuries that eventually led to blindness, including a compound skull fracture and, the Times said, "almost his entire right side has been crushed in."
A year later, he became a widower. He remarried and had two more children -- my father, another career newsman, now deceased, and daughter Frances.
He went blind before Frances' birth, yet the two were very close, she recently recalled. She never really thought of him as being blind.
"At Christmastime every year, he'd knock on my door and say, 'Let's go down and see what is there,'" she said. "He walked down the stairs with no problem -- he had his own way of doing it."
Henry Varian retired because of his blindness in 1927 and died little more than a decade later at age 71. It was the height of the Great Depression. The family moved from its comfortable suburban home in New Rochelle, New York, and his only son -- my father -- walked away from a college football scholarship and got a job to help support the family.
He eventually followed in his father's footsteps, first as a newspaper reporter in upstate Binghamton, New York, and, after fighting in World War II, as a photo editor for Acme Newspictures, which was taken over by United Press in the fledgling days of still picture journalism.
That led to two more generations of journalists -- myself, and then my oldest son, Bill, a newspaper reporter for more than two decades, now with the Tampa Bay Times.
In a family of storytellers, the story of my grandfather's unmarked grave remains an enigma. The one person who might be able to explain it, Henry Varian's widow -- my grandmother Martha -- died in 1991 at the age of 102.
"I knew there was something that was missing," her daughter, my Aunt Frances, told me recently. After an earlier visit to the cemetery nearly 10 years ago, she began saving to buy a headstone.
Honoring my grandfather
My relatives and I visited Green-Wood a few weeks before Superstorm Sandy toppled many of its towering trees, badly damaging scores of monuments and headstones.
But not my grandfather's. A bit more paperwork needs to be completed before his headstone is placed in the earth. It reads:
In God's Care
1867 -- 1938
Bringing to mind one of his shorter but most poignant poems that appeared in the New York World. It's title: "Life."
Vain is our life.
A little love
A little strife
And then -- Good Den!
Our life's a glean
A flash of hope
We dream a dream
Then sigh -- Good-by