Rolfe Herbert Wagner

My Dad passed away on March 30, 2005. Looking back over the eight months since, my 43 years prior to that, and Dad's previous thirty or so, his life was pretty interesting. Dad never had a 'big plan' for his life, nor wanted one. If I learned anything about Dad, it was that he enjoyed the journey of his life, the prospect of what lay around the next bend in the road. His reaction to the notion of a more forward-looking strategy would be the same as if you offered to ruin the book he was reading by telling him what happens in the final chapter. He relished the surprise, and if it wasn't exactly what he wanted, well, there were plenty of other books, plenty of other roads to go down. In the end, Dad had it pretty much the way he wanted it and I believe that he was satisfied. Dad had a love for the image and for setting down things that should be remembered. He passed that tendency on to me and so I am left with quite a store of his photographs and documents. I'm putting a few here in order to do just a rough sketch of what he did and who he was. Click thumbnail images for a larger version of the pictures. I need to get my dates straight on all of these, but Dad was born in 1931, so he grew up during the Depression and saw the coming of WW2. His Dad, a Preacher, travelled all over, setting up new congregations of the Church of Christ, so my Dad was raised on new places and frequent adventures. After a childhood spent as the Preacher's Son and having to get used to a new town, a new school, and new friends every year or two, it's not hard to understand his dreams of flying and horizons even further than the pine covered hills of Arizona or New Mexico or the scrubland of wherever was home this year. What schoolboy in the thirties and forties didn't want to be like Lindy or the other heroes of the sky? The Army Air Corps beckoned and Dad joined up. In the Air Force, Dad was a weather observer on B-29s flying from Japan, over the Sea of Japan and the Asian coast. From the sound of it, he got the adventure he desired. In addition, the experience of a young man in his twenties tramping around in Japan was probably a big influence on the rest of his life. From then onward he enjoyed most and practiced some Japanese arts. Our homes were scattered with Japanese ceramics, lacquerware, prints and decorative pieces. Dad (and Mom) seemed to appreciate the Japanese aesthetic, too. The only thing I am sure Dad didn't appreciate about his experience was the cuisine of Japan. When you're raised on red beans & cornbread, Tex-Mex, fried steak and whatever comes out of the garden, a lot of Japanese food just doesn't fit. Dad relished his Japanese experience for the rest of his life. After his tour of duty Dad came home, and like most people in that situation realized that you can never really come home. In Carlsbad, NM he met a young woman who worked at a soda fountain and they were married on April 1, 1951. Adventure was a way of life for my Dad, anyway, and instead of starting a family right away, they moved to California with another couple, settled in the Hollywood hills, and enjoyed the California lifestyle. My Mom worked for awhile at a bank branch near the Paramount Gate in Hollywood, and remembers seeing cast members from the filming of The Ten Commandments coming to the bank on their lunch hour, in costume, to deposit paychecks. I'm sure Mom and Dad had a lot of fun in California and they enjoyed their first ten years of marriage before starting a family. By the time my sister, Erica and I came along in 1960 and 1961, they'd returned to Texas, settled in a Dallas suburb, and eventually Dad began to work for Hallmark Electronics, a distributor of semiconductors to the space industry and military. Dad was interested in just about everything. He painted large, abstract landscapes and portraits. He was an avid amateur radio enthusiast and built his own equipment from kits. He built a color television from a kit in the mid-1960s. Some of my earliest recollections were of his 'ham shack' in the converted garage. There was also a photo darkroom and from time to time there was beermaking and boatbuilding going on. He tumbled, cut and faceted semi-precious gemstones and eventually learned


Lobster dinner, Ensenada, Mexico, 1955.

Mesquite, Texas. October 1959.

1960, Erica-Liis.

Mom, Dad, Kurt & Erica, Richardson, TX. February, 1963.

Erica & Kurt, about 1964.

1963-64.
silversmithing and started making jewelry. There was an old, vintage pinball machine scrounged from somewhere that was of endless interest to me. The wanderlust never went away, either. On weekends we were fishing at local lakes. On longer vacations we camped in the Gila wilderness in west central New Mexico or visted Herb & Dorothy Linn in faraway central Florida. Here are some more pictures, more scenes from the adventure story. Dad took up a variety of hobbies including painting, woodcarving, digitizing classical music for computers and was never far from a good book.


With his Mercedes, 1970, Sanford, FL.


Near New Smyrna Beach, FL, 1970.

City Manager, Trenton, OH about 1974.

50th wedding anniversary, The Red Snapper, Durango, CO, 2001.

The Wagners all together, June 16, 2001. Wayne, New Jersey.

Renaissance Fair, NM or CO, 2003.

At Rubios, Aztec, NM, 2003.

Victoria, Elizabeth, & Kurt, N. Haledon, NJ, 2005.
These are scans & photos of some of Dad's art: watercolors, carvings, an oil, and a pen & ink sketch. My earliest memories of my Dad were of an artist. In the 50s & 60s he painted a number of abstract landscapes and portraits. He concentrated on lapidary and silver work in the 70s and moved to woodcarving, furnituremaking, computer music and watercolors in the 80s and later. Here are some samples of his work (click for a larger image):

I'll close with a panorama of the New Mexico canyon that Dad loved. Click picture for a full-size image.

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