The world lost a beloved Montanan on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 when Roger Wagner of Nashua passed from congestive heart failure. He was a family man who loved celebrations and was dedicated to making his community a better place. Although born in St. Joseph, MN in 1942 to Thomas A. Wagner and Margarette Jackins Wagner, Roger spent most of his life on the family farm northeast of Nashua. He started farming with his father after college, and then farmed and ranched with his brothers David, and J.F. Wagner. The Wagner Brothers Ranch raised registered Herefords, and had a share in a bull that won Grand Champion at the 1974 Western Stock Show in Denver. Later, the brothers agreed to divide into separate farms, although Roger and his brother Richard and nephew Todd continued to work together in lease arrangements. In 2016, the Wagner family celebrated their farm’s 100th year anniversary, a true testament to the persistence (perhaps stubbornness,) willingness to work hard, good judgment, and resilience to adversity that characterized Roger and many others in the Wagner family.
Roger was educated at St. John’s in Collegeville, MN, both at the prep school and the university. He graduated with a BA in Economics in 1964, after which he returned to Montana. Roger married Laura Tremper in 1973 in Missoula during a severe snowstorm that prevented the rest of the Wagners from attending. The groomsmen were quickly replaced with whomever fit into the rented tuxes. Despite the inauspicious beginning, the couple had a strong and stable marriage for the rest of their lives, welcoming four children (Jeannette Waldron, Rachel Mark, Barbara Wagner, and Ben Wagner). Roger was incredibly proud of his family, and always did what was needed to ensure their needs were met even in hard times. During his retirement years, Roger’s greatest joy was family trips to see his children, and always insisted the family be together on every holiday and vacation.
In addition to his own children, Roger and Laura also welcomed 15 foreign exchange students into their home over the years, offering students from across the world a unique perspective on rural life. Many of them have visited Nashua again, and Roger and Laura went to Europe in 2018 to see Konstanze Hentschel, Stefanie Kitzmann, Stephanie Merk, Toby Brings, Adela Tehnikova, Markus Wein, Marijana Braune, and Zbyněk Kysilka. Other exchange students include Jesus from Mexico, Madoka from Japan, Gabriela from Brazil, Freia from Germany, Aibibi from Kazakhstan, Manuel from Spain, and Vlad from Russia.
Although Roger had a gruff exterior hardened by a lifetime of working on the farm, he had a heart of gold. He was dedicated to supporting his community and helping those who were struggling. He was always the first to write a check to a local nonprofit, buy or sell raffle tickets to support community causes, and find a quiet way to help neighbors in need. His dedication to community service and creating an improved world also led him to seek several community leadership positions. One of the honors of his life was to be elected as a delegate to the Montana Constitutional Convention in 1972. Recently, he attended the 50th reunion of the Convention in Helena, reminiscing with others of the amazing work they accomplished. Roger also served on the Nashua City Council, the Valley County Fair Board, Queen of Angels Church Council, the Valley County Democratic Central Committee, and several state boards. He promoted the Nashua community all of his life through the Nashua Lions Club, the Nashua Senior Citizens, the church, and through generous support of Nashua School and other community groups.
In his retirement years, Roger enjoyed traveling with his wife and family. The Wagners spent memorable vacations and Christmases as a family in Boston, Florida, the Caribbean, San Diego, Hawaii, Germany, Czech Republic, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon, often with Roger laughing in the middle of a big family dinner or activity where he also picked up the tab. Roger also really enjoyed watching sports events at Nashua School and the Boston Red Sox, and meeting friends around Nashua for coffee and playing cards.
Roger was preceded in death by his parents and 8 of his 9 siblings. Preceding him were sisters Mary Margarette Hanson, Therese Ann Wagner, Damaris Boerschinger, and brothers J. F. Wagner, Hugh Wagner, Phillip Wagner, Richard Wagner, and David Wagner. He is survived by his sister LeMay Bechtold of St. Cloud, MN. He is also survived by his four children and four grandchildren, listed by family: Jeannette (Mike) Waldron – Julie, Liam, and Mars Waldron of Livingston, MT; Rachel (Scott) Mark – Ezekiel Mark of Brookings, SD; Barbara Wagner of Helena, MT; and Ben Wagner (Vinh) of Stockholm, Sweden. He is also survived by his close nephew, Todd Wagner, and many other nieces and nephews.
Roger’s service would not be complete without the community he loved. Please join us for a service at St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in Glasgow on Saturday, February 18th at 10:00 am, or a Vigil Service at Bell Mortuary the evening before at 6:30 pm. Burial will be at the Nashua cemetery and luncheon at the Nashua Senior Citizens Center. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to some of Roger’s favorite causes, including The Nashua Senior Citizens, the Nashua Lions Club, Nashua Volunteer Firefighters, Valley County Food Bank, or (if you are so inclined) the Valley County Democrats, or a charity of your choice. Statewide people could also make donations to honor Roger to Friends of the Montana Constitution, P.O. Box 436, Billings, MT 59103.