July 15, 1926 - June 24, 2022
It is with unimaginable sadness and heartbreak that we announce the unexpected passing of Dr. John (Jack) Conway Wagner, UE, who died peacefully surrounded by his family in his 96th year.
John was born on July 15, 1926 in Innisfail, Alberta, the only son of Emily Margaret (Margot) Wagner (nee Blizard) and Dr. George (Hank) Cleveland Wagner, and younger brother to Margaret (Marg). His parents, whom he adored, came west from London, Ontario after they married, as Hank loved this part of the country. Jack's father set up practice in Innisfail, one of two country doctors in the area, and instilled in him a fierce pride for his strong Innisfail family roots and for the community.
Jack enjoyed a carefree, idyllic childhood frequenting the movie theatre and local pool hall and exploring and adventuring with close friends. His love of the land and nature was firmly established during many fishing trips, Boy Scout camps and expeditions to the beloved West Country, the Clearwater area, with his father and friends. Jack accompanied his father on house calls and it was through his father's medical practice and patients that he gained an early appreciation and respect for the people of the area and its farming communities. The family drove east on some summers to visit relatives, touring the World's Fair in Chicago in 1933 and New York in 1939. Jack worked in the summers at the local pharmacy and train station and enjoyed playing hockey, golf and curling.
After high school, Jack considered becoming a pharmacist, but decided to continue the family tradition and pursue medicine. He completed his B.Sc., majoring in Botany, at the University of Manitoba in 1951 (celebrating his 70th anniversary in 2021). Jack met the love of his life, Martha Løkken Andersen, a nurse who worked with his father in Innisfail - it was the start of a remarkable team. Following their wedding in Calgary, Martha joined Jack in Winnipeg and supported the family while nursing. He graduated from medicine at the University of Manitoba in 1957.
After graduation, Jack completed a year's residency at Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver. The family returned to Winnipeg where he pursued a specialty in General Surgery and then undertook a surgical residency at the Colonel Belcher Hospital in Calgary. It was during these years that Jack and Martha's three children were born. The pull of Central Alberta was strong and the family settled in Red Deer where Jack practiced general surgery for four years before realizing that he would be better suited to radiology. It was a bold decision to change specialties and move the young family to Edmonton where he completed post-graduate training at the University of Alberta. Jack's sharp eye and surgical background made him an outstanding diagnostician, a trait he had in common with his father.
Returning to Red Deer for good in 1970, Jack became a partner in Radiology Associates, now Central Alberta Medical Imaging Services (CAMIS). He provided diagnostic imaging services at the Red Deer General Hospital and the group's clinic, as well as to smaller community hospitals. Jack particularly enjoyed travelling to these sites through the beautiful scenery of Central Alberta. He later specialized in ultrasound and completed additional education at Wake Forest University, North Carolina. Jack loved his work and was a great team player, invigorated by those he worked with in the clinical environment. His knowledge and experience were appreciated and he was very well liked and respected by all his colleagues. Jack had a long career, retiring in his early 70s after over 40 years helping thousands of patients - what an amazing legacy!
Jack's family was his focus and passion and he enjoyed the company of good friends. He was always there to provide support and wisdom on a school project, life skill or at hockey practice. Jack was also a painter, had an artistic eye and loved art. He enjoyed gardening and knew every plant, bird and mountain of the west. Jack loved trees and enjoyed going out to his farm near Innisfail where, beginning in the 1940s, he planted and cultivated trees, surveyed the crops and always had a chat with a farmer. He loved the simple things in life, like vanilla ice cream and reading the newspaper. A long-time member of the Red Deer Golf and Country Club, Jack loved golf, a passion he inherited from his father who co-founded the Innisfail Golf Club in 1924. Jack enjoyed visiting his children and being Far Far to his grandchildren, sharing their successes and the things he loved. He and Martha never missed a family celebration, career or life milestone or a school concert or piano recital for their children and grandchildren.
Jack was an amazing son, brother, uncle, husband, father, Far Far, friend and doctor. He was generous, kind, caring, considerate, extremely patient and a humble gentleman with a heart of gold. Jack was an exceptional listener, a man of few words that were always well-chosen and perfect for the occasion. He often stayed in the background, however, his knowledge and trustworthiness earned the respect of colleagues and friends and was so valued by his family. Jack had a memory that was legendary, a dry sense of humour, like his mother, and there was always a twinkle in his eye accompanied by his trademark smirk. Jack wanted his children to have adventures and planned wide-ranging summer holidays. After retirement, he enjoyed a trip to Ireland to find his Irish roots, of which he was most proud. Above all, Jack was loyal, dedicated to those around him and honest as the day is long, always upholding the Hippocratic oath and doing his very best.
Jack was devoted to his family and so proud of his wife, children and grandchildren. He was extraordinary, how lucky we are to have had this dear man in our lives - what a beautiful difference one single life made!
John was predeceased by his beloved wife of 67 years (and best friend for 73 years) Martha, and will be dearly missed by his treasured children, Susan, Mark (Angela), and Janet, grandchildren, Marika (Reid) and Karl, nieces and nephews, Don, Murray, Sharon, Ronald, Billy, Colin, Wayne, Russell and Dixie and families, brother-in-law Flemming and good friends.
A celebration of Jack's life will be held for family and friends at a later date. Tributes in Jack's memory may be made to The Dickson Store Museum Society (Spruceview, Alberta), Innisfail Historical Village and/or the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.