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A man of great faith but few words, George L. Wagner died at home in Saginaw, Minn., on Friday, May 3, following the death of his wife and partner Grace Wagner by 642 days. He was 83 and had lived in the area all his life.
According to family legend, the bill for his birth at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth was paid in raspberries. He was raised in Hermantown and attended school there, but dropped out of high school and went to the North Central School of Agriculture in Grand Rapids, Minn. After two years he had his diploma.
George briefly studied at the farm campus of the University of Minnesota, learning about the management of dairy herds, and he spent a year as a milk tester. He tried pre-agriculture studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth but “couldn’t hack it,” he recalled later. One day, looking out the window, it occurred to him that the crops needed planting, and he walked out.
In 1956 he moved to the farm that would be his life’s work, starting out with a herd of 13 cows. Later, the herd grew to a maximum size of 25, and averaged about 20. He started selling tomatoes at the Duluth Farmers Market in 1957, and eventually expanded to potatoes and, as he put it, “everything.”
George and Grace married on November 14, 1964.
The Wagner family operated both the dairy farm and Stony Brook Greenhouse and Gardens, a business that sold bedding plants and vegetables. In time, George and Grace transitioned to other kinds of work, selling the dairy herd in 1991 and ending their regular Farmers Market attendance in the late ’80s. Over the years, George worked in a variety of areas: as a personal care attendant and home health aide for Interim Health Services; as a jack of all trades at the Lighthouse for the Blind; doing laundry and custodial services for St. Mary’s Hospital, and helping Grace run a day care service from 2000 to about 2008. He retired from the hospital in 2010. Together, he and Grace ran G&G Wagner out of their home, selling flea-market goods as well as jams and jellies.
George and Grace had five children: Peter Wagner; Helene (Mark, deceased) Bong; Rebecca Wagner; Ann (Eric Ringham) Wagner; and Joel (Heather) Wagner; grandchildren and step-grandchildren Paige, Gavin and Nora Wagner, Joseph Bong, Madeleine and Peter Ringham.
The service will be at St. Raphael on Thursday, May 16. Service at 11 a.m., light lunch at noon, cemetery at 2.
Arrangements are by Souder-Handevidt Funeral and Cremation Service. (www.handevidtfh.com)