Ray Charles Wageman

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Ray Charles Wageman

Surrounded by loved ones in his home, Ray Charles Wageman finished the race set before him with endurance on Monday, April 7, 2014 at the age of 89. Ray was born on Aug. 2, 1924 in Springfield, Missouri to Henry Herman and Anna (Beutler) Wageman. He married the love of his life, Evelyn Marie Baker, on Aug. 16, 1948, and they celebrated almost 65 years together.

Ray was preceded in death by his wife, Evelyn; his parents; a twin brother, Roy Frederick, who died at age 5; two brothers and their wives, John Lawrence Wagemann (Jean) and William Henry Wagemann (Erma); two sisters and their husbands, Anna Louise McCroskey (Floyd), and Ruth Marie Rogers (Ivy); and three brothers-in-law, James Arthur Barta, Julius Arden Baker and Hobert Eugene Baker.

He is survived by his son, Stephen Ray, and wife Kristine of The Woodlands, Texas; daughter Gere Lynn Masters and husband Mark ("Buzz") of Springfield; three granddaughters, AnneClaire and Caroline Grace Wageman of The Woodlands, Texas, and Britt Nicole Masters of Santa Fe, NM; one sister, Dorothy Faye Wageman Barta, of Louisville, Ohio; one sister-in-law, Doris Stopgate Baker, of Springfield; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

Ray's childhood was defined by the Great Depression and his father's tragic death in a welding explosion in 1941. He spent most of his school days attending Sunshine School, Jarrett Junior High School, and Springfield Senior High, graduating in the class of 1942.

Eager to serve his country when World War II broke out, Ray enlisted as soon as he was old enough. He was a veteran not only of World War II but also the Korean War, and survived 26 bombing missions over Germany as a waist gunner and radio operator in B-17 aircraft with the 8th Air Force, 447th Bombardment Group, RAF Rattlesden, England. He was privileged to journey to Washington, D. C. in 2010 with his granddaughter, Britt Masters, as part of the Ozarks Honor Flight for World War II veterans.

After returning from overseas duty, Ray enrolled in Southwest Missouri State Teachers College (Missouri State University now), where he was a member of Tri-C fraternity (later known as TKE). He made some lifelong friends there, and met Evelyn. After their marriage in 1948, Ray accepted a position with the Civil Aeronautics Administration in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but was shortly thereafter recalled to military duty in the Korean conflict. He was assigned to Maryville, Tennessee as an aircraft controller at McGhee Tyson Air Base.

The couple returned to Springfield in 1952. Ray began a career with Springfield News-Leader and Press as a district manager for 35 years, most of that time working two full-time positions as a city district circulation manager and route delivery supervisor. For many young men in Springfield, Ray was their first employer, teaching them work ethics as they served as newspaper carriers under his leadership. He took a personal interest in each one of them, and many of them have come back years later to express their gratitude for his mentoring of them at a young age. The man existed on hardly any sleep, yet managed to find time to spend fishing and boating almost every weekend with his family, as well as serving as Chief of the Springfield Nation of the YMCA Indian Guides organization at that time, and helping to establish the Springfield Swim Club, Southern Hills Swim Club, and Springbike Bicycle Club.

Ray retired from his newspaper job in 1986, and was employed as a part-time boat and RV salesman with Bass Pro Shops for a number of years. After retiring from Bass Pro, he decided to become a lifeguard for the Springfield YMCA on a part-time basis. In his spare time, he pursued his passion for sports, but emphasized the sport of triathlon. He logged and successfully completed 101 triathlons beginning at age 58 during his sports career, taking medals in most of them. In 1989, he traveled to Avignon, France as part of the World Triathlon team and won the World Championship that year in his age group, 65-69. Ray continued participating in triathlons and biking well into his 80s.

Ray was a truly exceptional husband, father and grandfather. A conscientious provider, he only had one afternoon off per week, yet he somehow found time to take station wagon loads of children to Table Rock Lake in the summer, to participate in Beaux-Belles dance club, bridge clubs, and dinner clubs with his wife Evelyn, and to teach his children and grandchildren to play tennis, swim, bike, ice skate, roller skate, and other athletic activities.

Ray has been influential in running, biking, swimming, tennis, and triathlon organizations in Springfield for years, inspiring and encouraging novice and veteran enthusiasts alike. He has served as president of the organizations when needed, participated in trash pick-ups, organized races, parties, picnics, provided transportation, and has been a coach and cheerleader to many younger athletes. Senior citizens have also caught the exercise "bug" from him as he has supported efforts of local, state, and national senior fitness endeavors. He has taught many, many young people how to swim and water ski. In the late 1960's and 1970's he was active with the Springfield Swim Club in support of the swimming activities for young people. Along with several other active members, he was instrumental in getting high school swimming started in the Springfield Public School system.

Although Ray did not attend church often as an adult, he was reared in the Baptist faith and professed his faith in Christ at a young age. As he entered his final years, he spoke often of God and the blessings he had been given in life. He was a kind and compassionate soul, very tenderhearted, but at the same time he was outrageous, mischievous, funny, clever, sometimes irreverent, direct, and magnetic. He never met a stranger, and always tried to draw out interesting stories from anyone he met. Children could not resist him, and he was told by his wife Evelyn that he should have been Captain Kangaroo. He took an intense personal interest in everyone he met--joking, teasing, and often giving them whimsical nicknames. There will never be another Ray, but he has left the world a better place for his having lived in it.

The family wishes to thank Miranda Cawlfield and her crew at Family to Family Healthcare Services and Solutions for the loving and tender home care they have provided for Ray for the past two years, and Omega Healthcare for their excellent Hospice care.

There will be a visitation at Greenlawn East Funeral Home on Monday, April 14 from 6-8 p.m, and a graveside service at the Missouri Veterans' Cemetery on Tuesday, April 15 at 11 a.m. with Rev. Michael Harmon officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Ozark Greenways, Springfield Family YMCA, Omega Healthcare Foundation, , or the charity of donor's choice.

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Funeral Home
Greenlawn Funeral Home East - Springfield
3540 E. Seminole
Springfield, MO 65809
417-887-6565
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Published in the News-Leader from Apr. 13 to Apr. 15, 2014
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