Kenneth Wagner, 93, passed away on Sunday morning at his residence. He was born on February 1, 1925 in Waterloo, Iowa to Richard and Bessie (nee Johnson). He had two older brothers, Robert and Roger. Even though Ken grew up during the depression, his parents tried to shield him from its more serious negative effects. However, his mother impressed on him early the worth of money, where even one cent had real value.
Ken graduated from West Waterloo High School in 1942. With the country in the midst of World War II, he registered for the draft on his 18th birthday volunteering for early induction. He was enrolled in the Signal Corps at Camp Crowder, Mo. After basic training he was assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program taking classes at the University of Nebraska. Noting his ability, the army recommended him for cryptography training. On completion of his studies in California, he embarked for New Guinea and shortly thereafter, to Leyte in the Philippines. There the army discovered that Ken not only was skilled in cryptography, but he also fared well in the mess hall. He enjoyed cooking the occasional meal for his unit and they likewise enjoyed his creativity with the food on hand. With the War coming to an end, Ken was honorably discharged from the army holding a rank of Private First Class. Having earned the benefit of the GI Bill, Ken attended Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1950. At that time the Korean War also broke out; therefore he re-enlisted in the army for three additional years. He was quickly promoted to Sergeant First Class and became the chief clerk of the Judge Advocate Department in Tokyo.
Upon his discharge, he returned to Iowa State Teachers College to complete his Master’s Degree. His first teaching position was in Cincinnati where he remained for two years. Not long after, friends in Racine encouraged him to further his career here. He was hired in 1955 by the Racine system and assigned to Horlick High School, remaining there until his retirement in 1986. Over the years he taught American History, World History, Sociology, and Economics and earned the Social Studies department chairmanship. Reflecting on his long-standing career, Ken described it as “31 delightful years.” Ken was fortunate to have a long retirement and enjoyed taking trips all over the world. He was on the Racine Sister City Planning Council encouraging others to travel to its sister cities in Denmark, France, and Japan.
Ken is survived by nieces and nephews and a lifetime of long-lasting relationships with friends and former students. As teacher, he was in the position to touch many lives in a meaningful way. He will truly be missed by all.
Relatives and friends may meet at the funeral home on Friday from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. with a time of remembering Ken’s life to start at 6 p.m. Interment with Full Military Honors will be held at the Southern Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Town of Dover. It is fitting with Ken’s great love and appreciation for education, that he established the Wagner Scholastic Achievement Award. His memory may be honored with memorials to this worthy cause.
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