Dr. Leon Wagley passed away at the age of 89 on July 2, 2010, in Las Cruces, N.M.
Leon was born to John and Katie Wagley on April 22, 1921, in Forrest, N.M., (outside of Clovis) on the family farm, where he was the third of six kids. There were lots of long, hard days on the farm, but his love of learning and agriculture eventually led him to New Mexico A&M, now NMSU, where he graduated in 1947 with a degree in Ag Education. He taught Vocational Agriculture at Deming High School from 1947-59', which he would say later was one of his most rewarding experiences.
While teaching in Deming, he met his wife of 50 years, Anna Irwin, who was the girls' Physical Education Teacher. He completed his Masters Degree from NMSU in '55 and his Doctorate at the University of Arizona in '64.
During the next several years, he was the State Supervisor of Agriculture in Phoenix, and then started the Northern New Mexico State Vocational School in El Rito -- now in Espanola. Finally, his Aggie blood brought him back to Las Cruces as the Head of the Agriculture and Extension Education Department. This was the dream job for the young professor, and now with son Ernest in tow, the family put down roots in Las Cruces, where Anna still lives to this day.
Teaching agriculture and leadership was his passion. He believed that "when the student has failed to learn, the teacher has failed to teach," and he dedicated his career to helping the lives of his students. He would travel the region along with Dr. Paul Vaughn, his friend and assistant, to ensure that every one of his students had a job when they graduated from college.
During his tenure at NMSU, he gave hundreds of speeches, received numerous awards including Teacher of the Year and Most Outstanding Alumnus, and served on the Athletic Council, President of the Alumni Association and Booster Club.
When he retired in '91 after 25 years of service at NMSU, he did not want to leave the "kids." He believed he had more to offer, and so he continued his involvement in the National FFA Organization where he was a conference supervisor until a couple of years ago. In his later years, he would walk the mall, attend Aggie sporting events, watch bull riding daily and enjoy the company of his son Ernest, daughter-in-law Lisa(Finke) and grandkids Sydnie, 12, and Carson, 5, all of Keller, Texas.
He and Anna would travel the region in their Airstream Trailer, enjoying fishing, camping, seeing family and friends, and especially catching up with former students.
Leon will be buried in Deming, N.M., at a later date, and there will be no funeral, only a celebration of his life at the Stan Fulton Center by the Aggie Memorial Football Stadium, NMSU on July 24 from 1 to 3 p.m.
He was a great man, daddy and husband.
Published in Deming Headlight from Jul. 15 to Jul. 19, 2010.