TRAVERSE CITY — Dr. William C. Wagner, 81, died Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, at Munson Medical Center after cheerfully battling a yearlong illness.
Bill was born Feb. 19, 1931, in Harrisburg, Pa., the only child of Eva and W. Carl Wagner. His childhood, which lacked many of the usual comforts, instilled in him an appreciation for hunting, fishing and the finer things in life.
He spent his undergrad years at Penn State and his love for the Nittany Lions knew no bounds. After being assured that his ROTC scholarship would cover "any school he wanted to go to," the offer was withdrawn when he decided to go to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. His family physician, also a D.O., recognized Bill's intelligence and offered to loan him the tuition. That loan, plus selling his stamp collection and working at jobs that included being a pin-setter in a bowling alley, a floral arranger and playing trombone in the Fink Boys band, helped him graduate in 1957.
While interning in Bangor, Maine, he met a doctor who told him he thought his brother's hospital in Traverse City could use an anesthesiologist. That brother, Ken Taylor, also introduced Bill to Elizabeth Way, and was best man at their wedding on April 26, 1962. The Wagners, Taylors, Frantzes and Wises gather annually for the Labor Day Picnic, now in its 57th year.
For several years, Bill was the only anesthesiologist at Traverse City Osteopathic Hospital and was on call around the clock. He served as chief of the medical staff, was on the hospital board and also served multiple terms on the Board of Governors and was president of the American Osteopathic College of Anesthesiologists and its examining board. Bill retired in 1989.
Bill and Liz raised three children at their home on West Bay, surrounded by dogs, boats and corny jokes. Bill continued to hunt and fish, never missing an opening day of deer season or an opening day of trout season at Easlings' cabin on the Boardman River. He and Liz were part of the Premier Bridge Club, a group with ties that trump most friendships.
Bill was truly a Renaissance man, as comfortable with a needlepoint design as he was with a hunting rifle. He loved skiing and fishing trips out west and travels to Costa Rica, Alaska, New Zealand and Africa. He loved all his hunting dogs, especially the irreplaceable Koko. He enjoyed golf and opera, tennis and classical music, photography and flank steak.
Liz died in Dec. 1998. After years of travel and dating, Bill met and committed to Dottie Everett. They enjoyed traveling together as well as living on the shores of Platte Lake. Dottie died in Dec. 2009.
Bill's five grandsons will always remember early morning fishing on West Bay (followed by trips to the grocery store to "buy all the fish we can find"), swimming lessons, silly pranks and tasteless jokes. The rest of the family, and possibly the entire state, also will remember him by the dents in their car doors and bumpers.
Bill is survived by his children, Kathryn (Steve) Gravlin, Kim (Eric) Olson and Bill; his grandsons Ben (Theresa) Gravlin, Alex and Nick Gravlin and Spencer and Adam Olson.
Visitation for Bill will be from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 30, at the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home. The funeral is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Grace Episcopal Church.
As a former member of the Board of Directors of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra, Bill would love to have memorials directed to the TSO, 300 East Front St., Suite 230, Traverse City, MI 49684. As a loyal fisherman, Bill also would embrace memorials to Trout Unlimited, Adams Chapter, P.O. Box 2129, Traverse City MI; 49685
The family is being served by the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home. Please share your memories of Bill in the online guestbook at www.reynolds-jonkhoff.com.