Al Wagner, 80, passed away suddenly on Oct. 24, due to complications from open-heart surgery. Al was born in Bowling Green, Ohio, July 30, 1932, and has been a resident of Bozeman since 1996. He was raised in Gibsonburg, Ohio, by his adoptive parents, Al and Lillian Wagner, and was the sixth of seven children born to Willard and Verda (Meyers) Marsh. His biological parents were killed in their home during a fire, when Al was 18 months old.
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Al participated in most sports during high school, worked several jobs to earn his college education, and was known for a few pranks in the small town. In 1950, Al enrolled at Ohio University, and was initiated in the Sigma Chi Fraternity. In 1952, he transferred to The Ohio State University, joined the ROTC, and continued his brotherhood with the fraternity and became a loyal Buckeye fan. Following graduation in 1954, Al married his high school sweetheart, Lee (Eyestone) Wagner. The couple were stationed at several Air bases before returning to Columbus, Ohio, where they remained while raising their two children.
Al began his professional career with Travelers Insurance Company, and later started Delta Dental Plan of Ohio. He ended his career as Vice President of Managed Health Care at Mutual of Omaha. Throughout his professions, Al continued his service in the Air National Guard Reserves and was recalled during the Vietnam War to South Korea. Al retired as a Lt. Colonel from the Air Force after 22 years. He was very proud of his military service and treasured his many military friends.
Al continued his love of flying by earning a Certified Flight Instructor rating so he could teach his son, Steve, to fly. Al was a proud member of Daedalians and first President of Quite Birdman, organizations for pilots. He organized the military airplane display for the Blue Angels event at Gallatin Field, and flyovers during the Memorial Day parades. Along with his love of planes, he enjoyed restoring antique cars, also involving his children. Al valued education and never stopped learning. He was passionate about mentoring and sharing business experiences by volunteering with SCORE and supporting the entrepreneurial ventures for the Story Mansion. He was an outdoorsman, enjoyed shooting with the 'Old Farts,' fishing trips, golfing with friends and enriching the game with ornery bets, and cheering for his beloved Buckeyes. Al treated others with respect, gave more than he received, and initiated conversations with interest and ease through his smile. No one is short of a good memory or an "Al Story."
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Lee; children, Steve (Nancy) Wagner of Austin, Texas, Sara Orchard of Manhattan; and seven grandchildren, Blake Wagner (Lubbock, Texas), Molly (Kyle) Gunnarson, Jon, Anna and Jenna Orchard (Bozeman), Jason (Katy) Bryan, Adam Gerval (Kansas City, Kan.), and two great-grandchildren. Surviving siblings in Ohio are sisters, Betty Phillips, Edna Stebbins, Mabel Lowe. Al will be joining siblings, Richard, Doris, and Willard in God's Kingdom.
A celebration of Al's life will be at the Methodist Church, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. A reception at the Story Mansion will follow, and a presentation of Military Honors with a fly-over, at the Sunset Cemetery, 4 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Al's name to the local Daedalian Chapter for academic and pilot training scholarships for ROTC students at MSU - G.S.S.F, c/o Vic Lutes, 4735 Meadow Lane, Bozeman, MT 59715.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service, www.dokkennelson.com.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle from Nov. 14 to Nov. 15, 2012