The Wagner children , including daughter , Susan attended Zion Lutheran, while I went to St.Rose of Lima on the opposite corner. Over the years , Susan and I would become best of friends and share many adventures and momentous times together.
But at that first meeting, I was a kid who didn't much like being away from my mother and dad, or familiar folks and was a little shy to be riding to school with people I didn't know. It was Mrs. Wagner's kindliness and happy smile that helped me feel secure, and welcome. March 10th, Mrs. Wagner will be celebrating her 99th birthday, and her smile is the same great smile I remember from long ago - a joyful, happy smile that still makes me feel secure and welcome, and makes me want to smile, too !
While Susan and I got a ride to school with her parents, we would often walk home. I must say, a walk much easier for me than for Susan as she suffered with Leg Perthes and had to walk with metal crutches and a brace strapped around her waist until she was ten years old. In my youthful innocence, I'm not sure I really understood Susan's challenge, but am happy to say, intuitively , I knew Susan had to walk at a slower stride , and so never tried to outpace her, but always walked by her side. Well, until we got into high school, and Susan had the fastest time around the track !
At night Mr. and Mrs. Wagner set up an apparatus to keep Susan from putting any weight on her foot and used a 5lb. bag of sugar as a pulley to keep her foot suspended in air. Susan remembers her parents never complained about that chore they did night after night, and says watching the care her mom and dad so lovingly gave, helped shape how she cares for her own children and grandchildren; and how her difficulties at such a young age molded her determination, competitive spirit and can do personality.
Throughout our teenage years, Susan and I were always at each others house - I don't think a day went by we didn't see each other or talk on the phone. One afternoon while at Susan's, Mrs. Wagner was gently reprimanding her older brother, Terry for neglecting a chore. I remember Terry picked up a broom , danced around the room, saying in a teasing, light hearted way, "Here, Mom! Go ahead, take it , and give me swat". Mrs. Wagner got the giggles , and we all started to laugh. It was an endearing moment, and one that has stuck with me all these years. The last time I visited with Mrs. Wagner, a year or so ago, I shared that memory with her, and she got the giggles all over again.
One Saturday evening when mom stopped in for hamburgers for us, Mr. Wagner added 3 vanilla malts. Mom, looked surprised, and told Mr. Wagner she only ordered hamburgers. At that time Mom was on a pretty strict budget, and the malts would have been an extravagance. Mr. Wagner told her, " You just take these home to Kathy and Walt, Mrs. Cooney, it'll make their hamburger taste better, and add a little calcium for their bones". My mother has never forgot that kindness, and said it is one she has tried to immolate.
Don and Neoma Wagner were married in 1944, and together raised five children - Don (Mike), Terrence, Susan, Pamela, and Reid - all of which I'm privileged to have known. Mr. Wagner passed away at age 67, and eldest son, Mike, two years ago. The Wagner's were, and are a wonderful family. And as anchor and guide, their dear mother, Mrs. Wagner!, who leaves a legacy of wisdom and joy, deep faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and love - not only to her children, but also her grandchildren and great-grandchildren - and to all, like me, who have been graced by her goodness.
Happy Birthday, Mrs. Wagner !