May 23, 2024
McHenry County | Northwest Herald


Former Crystal Lake mayor Robert Wagner dies

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Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct dates Robert Wagner served as mayor.

Robert Wagner, former mayor of Crystal Lake, held a number of public service positions in his 64 years of life.

After serving as mayor from 1995-1999, he went on to be a Grafton Township Trustee, before becoming president of the McHenry County Historical Society in 2019 after just a year on its board of directors. Before that, he was a Crystal Lake Park District Commissioner, and on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Civil Jury Instructions.

Despite these accomplishments, Wagner managed to be "very down to earth," and a good guy, said Kurt Begalka, administrator for the McHenry County Historical Society.

"He's the type of guy who would offer to buy you lunch, buy you a beer," Begalka said. "[He was] very personable. He wasn’t the guy to toot his own horn."

Wagner died on Friday after suffering a heart attack three days earlier.

"Most people are in shock," Begalka said. "It's a real shame."

Begalka, reached by phone on Monday, remembered Wagner as a man who was able to be "very committed" and "laser-focused" to his goals, while still keeping a dry sense of humor.

Recently, Wagner showed up to the society's Holiday Open House wearing a Santa suit – without anyone asking him to. During a membership drive at the society's Cider Fest, every time someone signed up, he'd ring a bell, Begalka said.

As president of the historical society, Wagner was spearheading its self-evaluation process.

Begalka said Wagner made increasing the society's membership his personal goal.

"He said, "I'm going to shoot for 900 members, which is great," Begalka said.

A visitation for Wagner, 64, will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Davenport Family Funeral Home and Crematory, at 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave. A second visitation will be held from 9:30 a.m. until Mass is celebrated at 10:30 a.m. at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 410 N. First St. in Cary. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the McHenry County Historical Society, at 6422 Main St. in Union.

Wagner was a lawyer who, according to his obituary, prided himself on "representing those who needed help the most, while always fighting for the little guy."

He graduated cum laude from Marquette University in 1976, before receiving his juris doctor from DePaul University's School of Law in 1980.

According to his obituary, Wagner had a "deep appreciation for nature," and loved to spend time fishing, biking, walking his dog, Molly, and taking his grandchildren to the park.

Wagner is survived by his wife, Nancy; as well as his children, Jamie (Joseph) Petersen, Charlie (Tara), Johnny and Robbie; and four grandchildren, Grace and Jack Petersen and Will and Frannie Wagner.