Russel Olson Wagner

Russel Olson Wagner

Russel Olson Wagner, age 94, left this earth on Wednesday, September 19, 2012.

Russ was born on February 18, 1918 in Racine, Wisconsin to Nicholas Bacon Wagner and Kjisten Olson Wagner. Russ graduated from high school in Racine and went on to attend the University of Wisconsin- Madison, where he earned a BS, MS and eventually a PhD in Botany. Russel was married to Ethel Mae Seward in Lake Mills, Wisconsin on December 26, 1940. He taught high school biology in Eagle River and Waupaca, and worked for Forest Products Laboratory before moving to Platteville join the faculty at what is now the University of Wisconsin- Platteville.

Russ had a love for the natural world, for learning, greatly enjoyed his teaching career and he and Ethel Mae loved traveling. He was a wonderful parent who was more than willing to teach his daughters whatever they showed an interest in and never discouraged either of them from pursuing any interest. Combing travel with education, Russ and Ethel Mae spent a few months a year for 25 years at Mesa Verde National Park while Russ volunteered with the National Park Service studying and discovering the reason for the death of pinyon pine trees.

While in Platteville, Russel was a member of the First Congregational Church and a member of the local Masonic Lodge. After he retired, he and Ethel Mae made a home base in Lake Mills, Wisconsin where they joined the First Congregational United Church of Christ and he remained a Mason. They also volunteered their time and expertise at the Aztalan Museum at Lake Mills. Once retired, Russel and Ethel Mae became snowbirds, spending their winter time in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Here Russ volunteered with the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, giving tours to visitors. He also volunteered with the Frontera Audubon Society and the Valley Nature Center. In addition, Russ managed to volunteer at Big Bend National Park in Texas and at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona. After Russ retired, he relearned and took great joy in his skills on his clarinets, using his winters to play in the Rio Grande Valley Concert Band and many evening jam sessions. He spent his summers playing in the Lake Mills City Band and the Watertown Municipal Band.

Russel was preceded by Ethel Mae in 2007. Russ leaves here his special little dog, Cutie, his daughters, Joanne Wagner and Susanne Wagner (Gary Poulson), 5 grandchildren- Joanne’s sons, Aaron (Lisa Marbury) and Nathan Allen, Susanne’s son Jonathon (Angela) Poulson and daughter, Sara Poulson and Gary’s son Matthew Poulson (Sarah Fowles); and 2 great-grandchildren- Shea Reilly and Elinor Poulson.

Russel’s daughters would like to thank the people from Visiting Angels who became friends, helping him out at home and continuing to visit him and play cribbage with him after he moved to Brook Gardens. Brook Gardens (and all the employees there) deserves many, many thanks for their friendship, assistance and care when Russ needed it. And our sincere thanks go out to all of Russel’s friends and relatives who gave selflessly of their time and companionship.

A Memorial Service will be held for Russel in Lake Mills in the summer of 2013.

Memorials can be made in Russel’s name to The First Congregational UCC, 307 W. Madison Street, Lake Mills, WI 53551 or to The Mesa Verde Museum Association, P.O. Box 38, Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330.

Bye, bye Papa. Thank you!