Genevieve A. Wagner

April 27, 2013|By JANET HEIM |
  • This parish directory photo of Genny Wagner was taken within the past several months.
Submitted photo

Genevieve “Genny” Wagner had many passions — her family, the church, music and swimming.

Her days were filled with volunteering at St. Ann Catholic Church, water aerobics at the Hagerstown YMCA and attending practices with the many community bands in which she played.

“That keeps you young, staying active,” said youngest son Gerard Wagner of Clear Spring.

“She loved to be independent,” son Randall Wagner said.

In the summer, she was a regular at Hagerstown Municipal Band concerts and could be found poolside at North Gate Pool, within walking distance of her Lindsay Lane townhouse.

She and her friends soaked up the sun while playing Scrabble, “gabbing” and swimming laps, said eldest son George A. Wagner Jr. of Kinnelon, N.J.

“She swam. It made her feel good, stay limber,” Gerard said.

“She lamented Labor Day,” when the pool closed for the season, George said.

Music was the other constant in Genny’s life. She had sung in the church choir since she was young and played clarinet in the Boonsboro High School band before graduating in 1945.

It would be about 40 years after high school, though, until she returned to the clarinet, George said.

“I think her music was her first love at this point,” Randall said.

She also played with the church bell choir. The Wagners often invited parish priests to attend municipal band concerts with them and had them over for dinner.

“Their lives revolved around the church,” George Jr. said.

Genny’s funeral mass was concelebrated by three priests, and another priest spoke at the viewing.

“It’s sort of a testimony to her dedication and esteem in the church,” George said.

Genny was born in Mercersburg, Pa., but moved around growing up. She was an only child and her mother raised her as a single parent, working at Fairchild Industries as a riveter during the war.

After high school, Genny worked as a clerk at Hays Stationery Store in downtown Hagerstown. Her husband-to-be, George Sr., was a regular customer, frequenting the store for photographic supplies while he worked as a projectionist at the nearby Academy Theater.

“She had a pretty smile. Everybody loved her,” Gerard said.

George Wagner Sr. had grown up in Emmitsburg, Md., and recently had returned from serving as a photographer and projectionist in the U.S. Army during World War II. His youthful looks belied his age, and when they started dating, Genny didn’t realize he was 13 years her senior.

There also was a big height difference, with George Sr. standing more than a foot taller than Genny.

When the Wagners were dating, then first married, they belonged to the Appalachian Trail Club, a climbing group of young people.

They married in January 1948, when George Sr. was 33 and Genny was 20. George Jr. was born in 1949, followed by Randall 16 months later, then Gerard 10 years later.

“She loved us. She lived and died for us boys when we were growing up,” George Jr. said.

The boys were raised on Belview Avenue, in a home in which George Sr. and Genny lived for 49 years before moving to North Gate in the late 1990s.

“Our house on Belview was always full of kids,” said George Jr., who added that his mom always was feeding their friends, even if it was bologna sandwiches.

“She loved it,” Gerard said.

They were a typical working-class family, with the children never feeling deprived of anything.

“Anything she could give us, she would,” George Jr. said.

The family initially attended St. Mary Catholic Church, but when St. Ann’s was built, the North End families were sent to the new parish, her sons said.

The Wagners supported their sons’ activities, including baseball, basketball, football and swim team. Gerard has fond memories of George Sr. taking a car full of kids hiking at Black Rock or Cunningham Falls.

There also were several weeklong camping trips to Cowans Gap with extended family in the summer, with George Sr. returning to work during the week, Randall said.

George Jr. and Randall “practically lived” at the YMCA and sang in the church choir and took piano lessons. Genny worked in the cafeterias of schools where her boys were students, then for a women’s clothing store at Long Meadow Shopping Center until her retirement.

“She wanted her schedule to work around ours and to keep an eye on us,” George Jr. said.

Genny also helped her three sons roll newspapers for their Herald-Mail paper routes.

George Sr. worked for Warner Brothers until the area theater closed, then volunteered as a projectionist at The Maryland Theatre for 65 years, with Genny volunteering as an usher there for many years.

The couple enjoyed trips with the local UAW group, Randall said.

He worked at Fairchild and then at Mack Trucks, retiring in 1979. George Sr. died in August 2009, at age 95 and after 62 years of marriage.

The family grew to include six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

“Oh, she loved the grandchildren. She tried to treat everybody equally all the time,” George Jr. said.

Genny was known for her cooking, from her homemade spaghetti sauce, vegetable soup and potpies to her tollhouse cookies, which she mailed in care packages to George Jr. at college, and later to his New Jersey home.

“Her tollhouse cookies were pretty well-known,” George Jr. said. “She was sort of a classic Hagerstown good cook in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. She loved to feed people.”

Genny continued her mother’s tradition of hosting a large family gathering at Thanksgiving and she loved entertaining at Christmas, too.

“My son said she loved cooking and she loved the Lord,” George Jr. said.

“I don’t know anyone who didn’t like her,” Gerard said.

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Genevieve A. Wagner, who died April 12 at the age of 85. Her obituary was published in the April 14 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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