“Fishing solves most of my problems. Hunting solves the rest.”
James Ross Wagner was welcomed into this world at the Hanover Hospital by his parents Ross and Elizabeth “Betty” (Lamky). Jim’s sister Linda was born in 1945. On her first birthday, Ross returned from the war, and Jim was born nine months later on November 13, 1946. Jim and Linda were later joined by their sister Nancy (1950) and their brother Brian (1954). Jim and his siblings were all baptized and confirmed in the Mount Hope United Church, and they attended every Sunday. Jim’s family grew up on Lot 11, Concession 13 in Elderslie Township on a mixed farm. The Wagner children were raised in a family farming environment joining his grandfather and uncles for haying and the harvest, along with his father. Jim quickly learned the value of hard work and how to drive tractors and equipment. The many neighbours and friends he met on the farm were very important to him. Jim started school at SS#8 Williscroft, a one-room school for grades 1-7, and completed grade 8 at SS#11 Salem, where he was the only one from grades 1 to grade 8, feeling like a loner from his early years. Jim and his siblings, along with the neighbour children, would walk or ride their bicycles to school and occasionally got a ride in the back of a neighbour’s pickup truck. Jim spent any spare time accompanied by the family dog Towser to the back of the farm and beyond. As soon as he was old enough, his gun was ready for a rabbit. Jim went on to Chesley District High School for grades 9-13. In high school, Jim continued his passion for hard work and had multiple jobs. He picked tobacco along with some of his school friends as a summer job, usually missing the first few days of back to school in the fall to gain the bonus. Later in high school, he spent summers in Kitchener framing houses. A trade that forever proved its value. On top of working and attending school, Jim excelled in sports, particularly baseball and in track & field, capturing the position as the top male athlete for four years straight. In his final year, in 1965, Jim went on to win the top male athlete at CWOSSA. What an accomplishment!
Following high school, Jim went to the University of Toronto and became a licensed embalmer in 1967. He worked at Skinner & Middlebrook Funeral Home in Port Credit. He worked here as a funeral director as well as an ambulance driver for two years. He then went on to work at BA Canada (now known as Gulf Oil) for two years working in the office. Jim would tend to come home on weekends to visit his family and friends, stopping in at his grandma and grandpas on Sunday night before heading back to the city where he was presented with a 6-quart basket of food to help get him through the week. One weekend, Jim’s friend Jim Stinson was dating Wilda Ball at the time, and they set Jim up on a blind date with a young woman by the name of Janette Friar. The two hit it off instantly and as they say, the rest is history! The two dated for a few years and they purchased a 60-acre farm on the 4th of Elderslie in March of 1970. They started doing only the very necessary renovations before their marriage on August 15, 1970, at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Chesley. They lived there while Janette finished her last year of nursing school. This became home for 14 years where Jim farmed beef and hogs. Jim started working for the Emkes at the funeral home in Chesley and worked there for 2 years before a personal experience sent him in a different career direction.
In 1974, Jim and Janette suffered an unimaginable loss, experiencing the stillbirth of their first child April Dawn. Things changed in their life for the better when they welcomed their son Steve in 1978. In 1985, Jim and Janette bought a house in Paisley, and moved it to Chesley. This would not have been an easy task to do at this time, however, it was worth it. His experience on the farm led him to the career path of a crop insurance agent from 1985-1987. In 1987, Jim and Janette’s family grew when they welcomed twins Travis and Tracey. In August of 1992, Jim and Janette bought their dream property outside of Dobbinton where they raised their family and continued to call home to this day. In 1987, Jim once again joined the family operation, becoming the 4th generation working at Wagner Insurance Agency in Chesley. He took over the business in 1985 working with the company until he sold it to Trillium Insurance and retired in May of 2014.
From a young age, Jim learned his fishing skills from his dad in a variety of local streams. Often, he would swim in the local Snake Creek where a deep hole tested his ability to dive and tread water. He went on to fish larger varieties of fish in Chesley Lake, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Jim enjoyed many hours of fishing with his dad from their cottage near Wiarton, and then having his own boat fishing from Owen Sound harbour. He was a proud member of the Sydenham Sportsmen Association, where he helped arrange and participated in many Salmon Derbies. Through time, Jim discovered his true passion for hunting. Jim had travelled north many years for Moose hunting to Hornepayne, Nakina, Northern Light Lake and most recently Moosonee as well as hunting coyotes on many local properties. He enjoyed hunting for deer, and the comradery that came along with it. Jim’s passion for hunting was a special activity that he passed on to his boys and enjoyed being able to spend time with them in the fields, especially this year during rifle season. As dusk arrived, the guns went away, and the fellowship and stories came out which resulted in lots of laughs. Jim often joked he only missed two drinks. The one he wasn’t there for, and the one he wasn’t offered! 😉
Jim and Janette continued the tradition of attending Mount Hope United Church with their family. The church became a central community hub to be with friends for many activities such as chicken BBQ’s and Christmas Concerts until the church closed in April of 2021. Jim was an active member of the Masonic Lodge and the Chesley Legion. Jim and his team represented the Legion in the provincial curling championship. When Steve was playing hockey, Jim helped manage the minor hockey team’s games and tournaments. He also kept his excitement for baseball alive in later years when he couldn’t play, by umpiring. Jim collected coins and John Deere tractors, however, if you asked Jim’s family what he collected, they would tell you he collected everything! Like most farmers and fishermen, Jim enjoyed roast beef and fresh fish. No surprise there!
To say Jim was selfless is an understatement. He was known as the family forager, gathering vegetables and fruits, and going out to grab items to help anyone that needed a hand. He was an extrovert by profession but had an introverted personality. More than anything, Jim loved his family. Jim taught his children many lessons through the years, such as knowing how to swim and skate. He felt this was very important so that they didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, not knowing how to do things in an area where everyone else did. He also taught them the value of living off the land. Jim cherished his time with Janette and his kids, but a deeper love was found when his grandchildren were born. He embraced the title of grandpa so easily and was so proud to be in the bleachers of their sporting events. Jim enjoyed going for drives with his Golden Retriever Ty. In recent weeks, Jim’s health declined. Thankfully, he was able to have one last drive last Friday with his boys whereby they talked, scouted for tracks, and even enjoyed one last beverage together. Jim passed away at home surrounded by his loving family on Monday, December 12, 2022, in his 77th year.
Beloved husband of Janette (Friar). Loving father of Steve (Kym) of R.R. #3 Owen Sound, Travis (Katie) of R.R. #4 Chatsworth, and Tracey (Jordan) Lott of R.R. #2 Dobbinton. Cherished grandfather of Olyvia, Alec, Jana, and Jasper. Jim will be dearly missed by his siblings, Linda (Jim) McKeen, Nancy McKnight, all of Tara and Brian (Jennifer) of Orillia. He was predeceased by his infant daughter April Dawn, grandson Russell Wagner, his parents Ross and Betty (Lamky) Wagner, and sister-in-law Beth Gibson.
Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Thursday from 7 – 9 p.m. and again on Friday, December 16, 2022, from 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. with the service to follow at 1 p.m. Interment in Chesley Cemetery.
Memorial donations to Camp Huronda, a camp for individuals with Juvenile Diabetes (please make cheques payable to Diabetes Canada and include Camp Huronda in the memo line) or RMHC (Ronald McDonald House Charities), both of which helped and supported Jim and his family, would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.