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Gary Louis Wagner 1946-2022

JOHNSTON — Gary Louis Wagner, 75, of Johnston, passed away Saturday, April 30, 2022, at home, surrounded by family.

Gary was born July 4, 1946, in Butler, Pa., and was a 1964 graduate of Butler Senior High School. He was preceded in death by his parents, Louis and Helen Custer Wagner.

He is survived by his loving wife of 51 years, Esterina DeDominicis Wagner; two sons, Adam Wagner (Karina) of Albuquerque, N.M., and Eric Wagner (Neva) of Clermont, Fla.; and his brother, David Wagner (Barbara) of Butler, Pa. He is also survived by Esterina’s brothers, Fred (Darlene) DeDominicis of New Castle, Pa., and Orlando (Gina) DeDominicis of Volant, Pa.; and his seven grandchildren, who called him “Grampy.” They were the light of his life. They are Adam’s children Owen and Ada in Albuquerque, N.M., and Eric’s children Lauren, Lucas, Alaina, Benjamin and Josie in Clermont, Fla.

Upon graduation from high school, Gary enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and completed basic military training at Lackland AFB, San Antonio in October 1964. He attended technical training school as an airframe repairman specialist at Amarillo AFB, Texas.

After graduation from technical school, he was assigned to Schilling AFB, Kansas, working on KC-97 and B-47 aircraft with the 310th Bomber Wing. In June 1965, he was transferred to the 305th Bomb Wing at Grissom AFG, Indiana (known at that time as Bunker Hill AFB). There he worked on KC-135 and B-58 aircraft.

On July 4, 1966, he was sent overseas for a one-year tour with the 432nd CSG at Udorn AFB, Thailand, during the Vietnam War. While at Udorn, he worked a variety of aircraft, including WC-121, F-101, F-104, RF-4, F-4, A-1E, T-28, HH-43 and many transient aircraft. He also worked part time for Air America on C-123 and C-47 aircraft.

Upon return to the states, he was honorably discharged at Travis AFB, California, on July 4, 1968.

After receiving his honorable discharge from active duty, Gary attended the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics from September 1968 to July 1970, where he received an associate degree in specialized technology and an FAA Airframe and Powerplant license.

After graduating, he took a job with Pullman Standard Railroad Manufacturing Co. as a welder. Shortly thereafter, he accepted a job at the Butler Aviation Company, Butler, Pa., as an airframe and powerplant mechanic.

On Dec. 17, 1972, he left Butler Aviation for an air reserve technician position with the 910th Special Operations Group, Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station in Vienna. Gary started his Air Reserve technician career as a member of the 910th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron working in the sheet metal shop on A-37B Dragonfly aircraft. The 910th converted to C-130B aircraft during the summer of 1980. At this time, Gary was promoted to structural repair supervisor, where he remained for the next four years and was promoted to fabrication branch chief in April 1985. Including his four years of USAF active-duty service and 28.5 years at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Gary served a total of 31.5 years for the U.S. military, retiring with the rank of chief master sergeant in July 2001.

Gary was a longtime member of the Johnston United Methodist Church (now Living Water) in Johnston Township. He was a lifetime member of Johnston VFW Post 7614 and had been a volunteer firefighter with the Johnston Township Fire Department.

He could fix anything and never had to call a repairman. Gary loved Pontiac GTOs and restored three to perfection, winning several trophies at National GTOAA national conventions, and was later asked to be a judge for 1964 GTO class for the national competition. Gary was known by many as “GTO Gary.”

He also had a love for horns and installed twin truck air horns on several of his vehicles as well as an antique Ahooga horn and cowbell.

Family camping was a big part of Gary’s life, traveling the United States including a month in Alaska and a month in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada.

He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002 and later amyloidosis, but he still continued to travel with the Fifth Wheels RV when possible, making many wonderful memories over the years in spite of his illness. He was diagnosed with ALS in February 2021.

No funeral service or calling hours are planned and a celebration of life and military honors will be held at a later date.

Gary’s family would like to thank all family members for their caring support; treasured friend, Arlene Boozer for her valuable advice and constant loving support throughout this ALS journey; his Affinity Care Hospice nurse, Brittany Thomas and hospice aide Sabrina, for their kindness and compassion during his final months; and the outstanding support offered by the ALS medical team at the Cleveland VA Medical Center, Wade Park.

The family requests that material contributions in memory of Gary be made to any of the following: Living Water United Methodist Church, 6262 Youngstown Kingsville Road, Farmdale, OH 44417; Paralyzed Veterans of America, ALS, Buckeye Chapter, 2775 Bishop Road, Suite B, Willoughby Hills, OH 44092; or The Johnston Civic Club, c/o Joyce Barzak, 102 Tournament Trail, Cortland, OH 44410.

(special notice)