Leon A. Wagner, 96, passed away June 8, 2019 after an extended battle with Alzheimer's dementia. Born October 26, 1922, in Van Wert, Ohio, the son of Earl and Verena Wagner, Leon was the last of the family of 12 children.
Just out of high school, Leon served in World War II, first with a tank battalion in North Africa until his Sherman tank was shot out from under him and his crew. He was then asked to join the 101st Military Police Battalion of the 5th Army under General Mark Clark. He participated in the battles of Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno and Northern Apennines Po Valley and earned four bronze stars. When his commanding officer was promoted out of the Battalion in 1945, he wrote that the Battalion had "...justly earned a reputation as the best military Police Unit in the Army."
On his return to his family in Nov. 1945, Leon learned that his great friend and favorite brother, Arnold, just a little older than he, was missing in the Pacific Theater while serving on the submarine USS Swordfish, and was presumed by the US Navy to be on Eternal Patrol.
Leon returned to his job at the Lima-Hamilton Corporation, Lima Locomotive Works Division, thanks to his union steward. He joined Local 106 and served in many offices of the union. He was instrumental in forming a credit union to serve the workers of Lima-Hamilton Corp.
One morning while riding the bus on the way to work, Leon was entranced by a beautiful young woman sitting ahead of him. Summoning his determination and charm, he sat next to her and started a conversation. Learning that she needed her bicycle repaired, he eagerly volunteered to help. Their friendship grew into something more, and Leon and Alleta Mae (Dixie) Johnson were married on Nov. 1, 1947.
Cuna Mutual Insurance Group of Madison had learned of Leon's efforts with the local credit union in Lima, interviewed him and offered him a job. After intense discussion as to whether or not he should take it, Leon and Dixie decided to take the plunge. Leon was told to join the Cuna Mutual interviewer on a flight from Columbus to Madison. If he made the flight, they would know he wanted the job; if not, they would assume he didn't. He barely made the flight in the nick of time with the help of an Ohio State Patrol policeman who had stopped him for speeding. When he heard Leon's story, he led him to the airport with lights flashing and siren screaming.
Leon joined Cuna Mutual Insurance Group in Feb. 1960, worked hard, and with a high school education rose through the ranks until reaching the position of Executive VP of Cuna Mutual and Chief Operating Officer of CMCI Corp, a member of Cuna Mutual.
One of Leon's greatest joys was the many friendships he formed with his co-workers. His warm laugh and sincere appreciation of people endeared him to everyone he met.
During retirement, Leon and Dixie traveled extensively together. They drove south to the valleys of the Great Smokey Mountains, where Dixie was born and raised and they drove across the country to visit Leon's family. The laughter was loud and long at these get-togethers.
Leon loved meeting his fellow retirees for breakfasts, lunches, golf, dinners and events. He leaves many warm memories for his family and friends, and his generous spirit and wisdom will be deeply missed.
Leon lost his beloved Southern belle to dementia in 2010 after caring for her faithfully for years. He is survived by his son Greg (Meg Gores), daughter Belindah Anderson, granddaughter Kaziah Anderson, great grandchildren Aurorah Anderson, Juju Somersett, Damien Hansbro and Serena Chandler, all of Madison. He is further survived by many loving nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, son-in-law Clark Anderson, and his siblings: Sr. Henrietta Wagner, Richard Wagner, Eugene Wagner, Catherine Metzger, Rita Horton, Arnold Wagner, Lawrence Wagner, Louis Wagner, Francis Wagner, and Mary Ann Modica.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held Thursday, June 13, 2019 at 11 a.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas church, 602 Everglade Dr. in Madison, Fr. James Kuhn officiating. Entombment will be at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery. Visitation for family and friends will be held in the church gathering space from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent to St. Thomas Aquinas Church or a charity of choice.
Cress Funeral and Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Rd, Madison
Leon was a great human being. I found out about his passing tonight, from another co-worker from CUNA Mutual. He was a true gentleman. God bless.
Uncle Leon always had a smile, a story and laughter! His love for family and friends was genuine and beautiful! Bless you and your family! With love, Mary Jo Modica!
Farewell Leon....you were my first boss at CUNA Mutual and one of the finest human beings I've ever met. A true gentleman as well. You had a great sense of humor and you and Dixie were so devoted to each other. I was so lucky to have known both of you and called you friends. I'm sure Dixie is waiting for you at Heaven's gates....perhaps on that bicycle you fixed for her!
My wife and I delivered meals on wheels to Leon and his wife, and then Leon for many years. It was always a pleasure to visit with Leon as we delivered his meals; often we exchanged some bantering, but sometimes the conversation was more serious, as when he told me he couldn't bring himself to go on an Honor Flight, because he lost 2 brothers in WWII. He was a fine man. Brooks & Ginger Brenneis
My father too thought very fondly of Leon Wagner. I remember both of my parents talking about enjoying times with Leon and Dixie. My dad was Russ Gessler, from Cuna also.....they golfed together often and went to breakfast at C's.
My sympathy to the family
Uncle Leon and Aunt Dixie gave me so many memories and a lot of laughs...from the time they lived in Lima to Madison. We will definitely miss them, but they are in such a better place. Our prayers and thoughts are with Greg and Belinda.
My family is forever grateful for the friendship he had with our Dad, Dick Uphoff. Leon picked my dad up every week for breakfast with the Cuna guys at C's bakery. He did that even when my dad was difficult to transport. He was one of the most kind men I have ever met. RIP Leon
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