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Merritt E. Wagar

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GRAFTON, N.Y. -- Merritt Eugene Wagar, 84, of Route 2, died Saturday, Jan. 1, 2005, at his residence surrounded by his loving family.

Born in Grafton, June 28, 1920, to Joseph Leonard and Leta Matilda (Agan) Wagar, he was a ninth-generation descendant of George Soule, passenger (indentured servant of the Winslow family, who taught the Winslow family children) on the 1620 Mayflower ship.

Merritt lived in Grafton all his life; attending grammar school in the one room, Dist. No. 1, schoolhouse (in earlier years, it had been the Dist. No. 5). This building is now the post office. In 1939, he graduated from Troy High School where he had studied music and played in the Troy High School band.

He has been a member of the Grafton Methodist church since 1936 and has served in many capacities including janitor as a very young man, to trustee, church dinner worker, building improvement and upkeep.

Upon his high school graduation in 1939, he worked at Montgomery Ward as assistant personnel manager. Then he worked at the arsenal for one year as final inspector before enlisting in the armed forces in 1942.

Volunteering for the armed forces during WWII, he served in the Army Air Force where during training he played saxophone in the Army Air Corps Band. After basic training at Fort Dix, he was sent to schools in St. Louis; Jackson Air Base, Miss.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Jacksonville, Fla., on to Riverside, Calif. and shipping to India where he was in charge of motorized vehicles, motorcycles, chris crafts (used by the officers to cross the Hoogley River) and trucks. Motorcycles were dismantled and flown “over the hump” into China.

Merritt was a member of the Grafton Fire Co. and was fire police chief for several years and treasurer for many years. He also helped form the rescue squad and was treasurer of the rescue squad and he formed the scuba rescue team.

Merritt was a charter member and life member of the Carner Etman Smith VFW Post No. 6340. When Merritt was a member of the Grafton Men’s Club (met at Grafton Methodist Church) he initiated the acquisition of the “Village Green” and schoolhouse District No. 1 (formerly No. 5.) The Grafton Town Board then accepted the “Village Green” property for a “forever green” community parcel of open space. Subsequently, the men’s club kept the grounds mowed, meeting on Saturday mornings with hand mowers. They also painted the schoolhouse. At the age of 12 or 13, Merritt dug a well in the cellar of Uncle Gene’s house to earn money for a saxophone.

Merritt was a member of the Petersburgh Band, under the direction of Earl Wilcox from the age of 12 until it disbanded. He also played in local bands for round and square dances, including the Six Minus One Band. He was also a member of the Oriental Temple Shrine and the Shrine Band.

He was a member and former president of the Tri State Motorcycle Club. In 1951, he trained with other motorcycle members as auxiliary police aid by the Civil Defense as a messenger to assist the Troy Police Department in emergencies.

After an honorable discharge, with the rank of staff sgt. from the service, he was employed in 1946 by Miller Electric Co. in Troy for 12 years. In 1947, Merritt joined the National Guard Co. D Heavy Equipment Division of the 105th Infantry. In the same year, he was appointed deputy sheriff by Sheriff Craver, serving for several years and re-appointed in 1964 by Sheriff Harold Harriman. He then went with Fitzgerald Construction Co. for three years where he was involved in the construction of the blacktop plant. At this time, not wanting to collect unemployment during winter months, he drove tractor-trailer tanks for Lehman Co., hauling aircraft fuel to Westover Field, Mass. In 1959, Merritt joined the Behr-Manning Company, Watervliet (Norton Company) as sales representative for 21 years. Upon his retirement from Norton Company, he worked for the Rensselaer County Highway Department as traffic safety coordinator, D.W.I. and later was purchasing agent for the Rensselaer County waste water treatment plant. In addition, he was employed by Gardenway in the early 1990s.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Marjorie H. Ives Wagar; three sons, Richard M. Wagar (Missy)of Troy, James E. Wagar (Carol) of Grafton and Jeffrey A. Wagar (Beth) of Grafton; a daughter, Joanne M. Hubbs (Mark) of Pittstown; seven grandchildren, Stacy Winn, Richard M. Wagar, Colleen Crean, Gregory and Matthew Lewis and Nathan and Leta Wagar; four great-grandchildren, Jordan and Kylie Winn and Brooke and Drew Ryan; two sisters-in-law, Betty and Irma Wagar; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by two brothers, Earl L. and Everett L. Wagar.

Funeral service will be held today at noon at the Grafton United Methodist Church Route 2 Grafton with the Rev. Robert Hurd, pastor, officiating.
Published in Bennington Banner on Jan. 4, 2005
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