Cover photo for Leonard "Len" G. Wagner's Obituary
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1936 Leonard "Len" 2023

Leonard "Len" G. Wagner

December 25, 1936 — October 10, 2023

Leonard (“please call me Len”) Wagner, longtime writer/department editor/columnist for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, died peacefully Tuesday, October 10, 2023, at the Country Villas Assisted Living Facility in Omro, WI. A funeral Mass was held at St. Raphael Catholic Church in Oshkosh Friday, October 20, 2023, followed by burial in Sacred Heart Cemetery.

Having an avowed dislike of funeral services and therefore wishing to erase anyone’s potential feeling of responsibility to attend his funeral, Len requested it to be confined to family - though he pre acknowledged gratefulness for anyone’s prayers for his soul.

Len was born on Christmas morning 1936 to Mary and “Pat” (Wilmar) Wagner of Theresa, WI. As a Christmas baby, Len had to field questions throughout his life about being cheated out of birthday presents, but his answer always was that, to the contrary, he felt honored and humbled to share his birthday with Jesus Christ.

Agnes (Moore), his “beautiful and wonderful wife” - his words - with whom he thankfully shared 64 happy years, preceded him in death, having passed away in January of 2022.

Survivors include their seven children: Carol (Lonny) Wallner, Sheboygan Falls, WI; Pete, Tampa, FL; Mike (Gloria) Mosinee, WI; Barbara (Frank) Cavuoti, Warrensburg, MO; Terry (Juan Enrique) Valero, Oshkosh, WI; Trisha (Eddie) Graham, Robbinsdale, MN. Mickey Wagner (Lance Acker), Middleton, WI. Also, 10 grandchildren, three great grandchildren, four grandsons in law, two step great grandchildren, one sister (Karen Gosz, West Bend, WI), and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Len’s parents, Agnes’ parents (Edwin and Viola Moore), brother-in-law John Gosz, niece Jennifer Gosz, and sister-in-law Anne (Moore, Leicht) Maloney also preceded him in death.

Len’s life revolved around his family, various aspects of sports, and his writing profession. His fatherly philosophy was to instill the Golden Rule - “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.” He and Agnes encouraged their children to work hard in school and take part in many activities. Len was proud of their accomplishments large and small, from earning an elementary school penmanship trophy, to music, athletics, and other undertakings. Len coached most of them in sports. He juggled his schedule to watch their games and attended their other activities, ceremonies, and banquets. He especially loved his adventures in helping them to ride a bike and teaching them to drive. In between all his children’s activities, he managed to find time to get in a round or two of golf.

Len grew up in Theresa, a village of barely more than 400 inhabitants, split by the Rock River and overwhelmed by marvelous people and taverns. He loved talking about how great it was growing up in a small town, never bored, always finding something to do.

His attachment to sports and writing were simultaneously launched when, at 10 years old in 1946, he came across a LIFE magazine with a huge cover picture of eventual baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams. Williams became his hero and the Boston Red Sox his team, an often tortured loyalty he nevertheless maintained throughout his life. He began reading every baseball magazine he could find, collecting bubblegum cards, and listening to games (mostly Cubs and White Sox) on the radio - often keeping score in a prized scorebook and then writing a story about the game.

He also organized a pseudo little league team that never really rose beyond the original Bad News Bears level in games against neighboring villages. He attended St. Theresa Catholic Grade School (there were 8 students in his class) for 8 years and, of course, organized a school softball team to play games against the village public school until sister Berno, St. Theresa’s principal, rather unceremoniously shut down the team in mid-game over liability issues. Who knew of liability?

In 8th grade, still at St. Theresa, Len was surreptitiously recruited by the St. Theresa High School (a 2-year school) basketball team that was lacking both bodies and talent. Thus Len became what he liked to think of as probably one of the few state athletes to play five years of high school basketball. This became possible because Theresa High School folded as Len was about to become a freshman and his class moved on to nearby Mayville High School. At Mayville, he played four years of football, basketball, and baseball, which required hitch-hiking the six miles home after practice each day. Meanwhile, he continued writing, largely for his own satisfaction and was proud to write the dedication for his senior class yearbook. He also continued playing baseball for the Theresa and Mayville American Legion teams as well as the Theresa Pioneer Brews amateur team.

In 1954, Len enrolled at St. Norbert College, where he surrendered what he discovered were his lean football and basketball talents. And since St. Norbert did not have a baseball team at the time, he found summer playing time with the Oneida Missions and the De Pere team in the Northeastern Wisconsin League, and he turned to writing for the St. Norbert Times as a freshman, catching the eye of the college’s Public Relations Director, Jack Yuenger, who became his mentor. When Yuenger left the position, Len, prior to his senior year, was hired as Director of the newly-named St. Norbert News Bureau.

It was an eventful senior year, leading to a degree in history with the intention of teaching and coaching. Instead, his career took a turn as, in addition to his News Bureau duties, he also worked part-time for the Green Bay Press-Gazette and its radio station WJPG. But the major occasion was his marriage to Agnes on August 17th, 1957, in St. Willibrord Church in Green Bay.

In those early and mid-50s, St. Norbert was just growing from an all men’s school to a coed school and the women’s population was somewhat sparse, inspiring the school to put out invitations for young single women in Green Bay and surrounding area to meet real college men at the weekly Friday night dances at the college. Agnes and some of her friends responded and she met Len. Shortly thereafter love bloomed, despite their children eventually wondering how that happened since they never did seem to find much in common. Ah, but love inevitably finds a way, and Len often expressed his deep love for Agnes and his appreciation for the way she managed seven kids while he was spending many nights and weekends working.

Len also was an Army ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate and commissioned as a 2nd Lt. at graduation in 1958. However, he was given an honorable release after just three months because of a suddenly discovered medical impairment. He returned to St. Norbert as News Bureau Director for two years, during which time he also taught journalism and served as moderator for the Times. With the considerable talents and energy of four coeds with strong interests in journalism, they turned the Times from a very occasional publication into a weekly newspaper before Len joined the Press-Gazette as a full-time sportswriter. While at St. Norbert, Len also served on the organizing committee for the Green Bay Diocese’s sponsorship of the Packers’ annual Bishop’s Charities Game. In 1999, he was named to the St. Norbert Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame, honoring his professional success and loyalty to his Alma Mater.

He spent more than 30 years with the P-G, primarily as a sportswriter, sports editor, and author of his popular and often controversial Out of Bounds? column. He saved a large box of fan - and, as he called them, “not so fan” - letters proving the above description. He used that column to campaign hard for bringing all Packers games to Green Bay rather than sharing them with Milwaukee, and renaming City Stadium in honor of Curly Lambeau. He was particularly proud of his effort (some called it a crusade) via the column to break down the WIAA high school tournaments from one division to multiple divisions in order to give smaller schools a legitimate opportunity to earn and celebrate state championships.

He won several awards, including Wisconsin Sportswriter of the Year in 1974, and served two terms as president of the Wisconsin Associated Press Sports Editors Association. He covered everything from youth and recreational leagues to major leagues for the P-G, as well as many national publications. He covered the Packers through parts of six decades for various outlets. He also covered the first UW-Green Bay basketball game and the famed state high school basketball tournament “Lamont Weaver” game.

At the Press-Gazette, Len also spent short terms as News Editor, Features Editor, and general columnist, but returned to sports to author “Prep Talk,” a compilation of high school sports notes from the area, which he produced until his retirement. After his retirement from the P-G, Len returned once more to St. Norbert as Sports Information Director and authored a tabletop book - “Launching the Glory Years: The 1959 Packers and What They Didn’t Tell Us.”

Mixed in with all this, Len coached grade school basketball at St. Jude Parish School in Green Bay along with various levels of youth baseball and softball for 15 years. Later, he became head softball coach at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, winning the Fox River Valley Conference championship and earning Coach of the Year honor in his first year as a high school level coach. He also coached softball at Northeastern Wisconsin Lutheran and West De Pere high schools and St. Norbert.

Len and Agnes belonged to St. Jude Catholic Church in Green Bay for 48 years before moving to Oshkosh and St. Raphael Parish in 2008. At St. Jude, Len served on various committees, including as President of the Parish Council. He was on the organizing committee of the St. Jude Athletics Club, which inaugurated the annual church picnic.

In addition to the fun of raising their children, Len and Agnes particularly enjoyed family gatherings and spring trips to Florida, where they attended many major league baseball spring training games and enjoyed the sandy beaches and beautiful sunsets of Florida’s west coast. And woe to anyone who interrupted them while the Lawrence Welk Show was playing on television!

In the interest of full disclosure: For anyone who knew Len either personally or through his writing, and hasn’t figured it out, this biographical obituary should include the byline By Len Wagner, presumably, his last opus (check the dictionary) before his demise.

P.S. Len’s children would like to thank, from the bottom of our hearts, ALL the staff at Country Villa Assisted Living Omro, especially Teresa (Boss Lady), Tasha (when she was there), Amber, Tina, Mckenzie, Amy, Angie, Denise, Debbie, James, Sydney, Emily, and Crystal for all their kindness and the care they gave to our dad and our family. We are also grateful to the professionals of ProMedica Hospice for their help in caring for our dad.

Len’s funeral arrangements were handled by Konrad Behlman Funeral Home with Father Tom Long celebrating the Mass of Christian Burial.

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