Wag-Aero Co-Founder Passes Away
January 4, 2012 - Wag-Aero co-founder Richard “Dick” Wagner, formerly EAA 25491, VAA 4, passed away at his Lyons, Wisconsin, home on New Year’s Day. He was 74. An active member of EAA from the 1960s into the 1990s, he was one of the founding members of EAA’s Antique/Classic Division, serving as its first secretary.
“Dick approached everything in life with zest and determination,” said Tom Poberezny, EAA chairman emeritus. “He’d do what he said and get it done.”
Later, he was instrumental in helping EAA restore Ford Tri-Motor NC8407, and worked as a volunteer with EAA Founder Paul Poberezny as EAA’s Pioneer Airport was established behind the museum and EAA Headquarters.
With his wife Bobbie, Wagner co-founded their aviation supply business, Wag-Aero, which became widely known for its broad component inventory, and its kit aircraft, including the Wag Aero Sport Trainer and Sportsman 2+2.
They also sold plans for a number of homebuilt aircraft. So they could spend more time on their philanthropic projects through the Wagner Foundation, they sold the company in 1995. The Wagners’ programs have reached around the globe, providing humanitarian support, and working toward the preservation of historic buildings and artifacts.
VAA Director Emeritus Buck Hilbert, EAA 21, VAA 5, was Dick’s flight instructor back in the 1940s, and they remained friends for more than 60 years. He sent along this remembrance of his longtime friend:
The aviation people have lost a legend. The founder of Wag Aero has flown west.
All knew him as the founder of Wag Aero, but few of today's members know of Dick Wagner’s input and his effect on the beginnings of the Antique and Classic Division, now known as the Vintage Aircraft Association.
Richard H. "Dick" Wagner was my – our - secretary when I became the president of the newly hatched idea for an Antique and Classic Division. The three of us - myself,” Dick" as secretary, and Jack Cox as our newsletter editor - were the beginning.
Being the antiquer that he was, Dick went all out. At that time he was a North Central Airlines DC-3 captain, a Cub and Waco UPF owner, and president of Wag Aero company, which he founded with his wife, Bobbie. It seemed he couldn't do enough to help form the new EAA division.
He and Jack Cox designed the new logo, then Dick designed a new member package that included the new logo decals he and Jack Cox had designed.
Dick donated his services and his efforts in many ways then and over the years that he was active. He was a whirlwind of promotional ideas and the eternal dispenser of the “airplane disease” that affected everyone around him.
The growing business of Wag Aero got in the way, and understandably it, and the philanthropic foundation he and Bobbie founded, became his priority after more than 10 years of intense dedication to the division and EAA.
He was still involved, spearheading the restoration of the Ford Tri-Motor, bringing new talent into the picture, and providing advice and often monetary assistance.
Our paths never separated. From his early days as a student when I was his instructor, until more recent days when he helped my sons with their Luscombe restorations, we remained friends over many years. He would call and comment on my column in the magazine and, at times, offer new ideas.
We have sent him off to the big hangar in the sky with regrets, but with many fond memories. “Buck”
In accordance with Dick's wishes, there will be no formal funeral or reception. Rather, a simple memorial mass will be held on Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 7 p.m. at St. Charles Borremeo Catholic Church in Burlington, Wisconsin. For more information and a biography of Dick Wagner, click here.
In her note to friends advising them of his passing, his widow Bobbie wrote, “Dick had always asked that we celebrate his life by continuing to live ours as we normally would. Thank you in advance for your prayers and thoughts.”
Bobbie, Marcy, Ken, Julie, and Bob and all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren