JOHNSTON — Gary Louis Wagner, 75, of Johnston, died Saturday, April 30, 2022, at home surrounded by his family.
Gary was born on July 4, 1946, in Butler, Pennsylvania, and graduated in 1964 from Butler Senior High School. He was predeceased by his parents, Louis and Helen Custer Wagner.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 51 years, Esterina DeDominicis Wagner; two sons, Adam Wagner (Karina) of Albuquerque, NM, and Eric Wagner (Neva) of Clermont, Florida; 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 her seven grandchildren, who called her ” Grandpa. They were the light of his life. They are the children of Adam, Owen and Ada in Albuquerque, NM, and the children of Eric Lauren, Lucas, Alaina, Benjamin and Josie in Clermont, Florida.
After graduating 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 a technical training school in as an airframe repair specialist at Amarillo AFB, Texas.
After graduating from technical school, he was posted to Schilling AFB, Kansas, working on KC-97 and B-47 aircraft with the 310th Bomber Wing. In June 1965, he transferred to the 305th Bomb Wing at Grissom AFG, Indiana (known at the time as Bunker Hill AFB). There he worked on the KC-135 and B-58 aircraft.
On July 4, 1966, he was sent overseas for a year-long tour with the 432nd CSG at Udorn AFB, Thailand during the Vietnam War. While at Udorn he worked on 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 his return to the United 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 earned an associate’s degree in specialty technology and an FAA Airframe and Powerplant license.
After graduating, he took a job with Pullman Standard Railroad Manufacturing Co. as a welder. Soon after, he took a job with the Butler Aviation Company, Butler, Pennsylvania, as an airframe and powerplant mechanic.
On December 17, 1972, he left Butler Aviation for a position as an air reserve technician with the 910th Special Operations Group, Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station in Vienna. Gary began his Air Reserve technician career as a member of the 910th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron working in the sheet metal shop on the A-37B Dragonfly aircraft. The 910th was converted to a C-130B aircraft during the summer of 1980. Around this time, Gary was promoted to structural repair supervisor, where he remained for the next four years and was promoted to branch chief of manufacturing in April 1985. Including his four years of active USAF duty and 28.5 years at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Gary served a total of 31.5 years for the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of master sergeant in July 2001.
Gary was a longtime member of Johnston United Methodist Church (now Living Water) in Johnston Township. He was a life member of Johnston VFW Post 7614 and had been a volunteer firefighter with the Johnston Township Fire Department.
He could fix anything and never needed to call a repairman. Gary loved Pontiac GTOs and restored three to perfection, winning multiple trophies at GTOAA National Conventions, and was later asked to judge for the 1964 GTO class for national competition. Gary was known to many as “GTO Gary.”
He also had a love for horns and installed twin truck air horns on many of his vehicles as well as an antique Ahooga horn and bell.
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 with amyloidosis, but he still continued to travel with the Fifth Wheels RV when possible, making wonderful memories over the years despite his illness. He was diagnosed with ALS in February 2021.
No funeral services or roll call times are scheduled and a celebration of military life and honors will be held at a later date.
Gary’s family would like to thank all family members for their loving support; dear friend, Arlene Boozer for her invaluable advice and her constant and loving support throughout this journey with ALS; her Affinity Care Hospice nurse, Brittany Thomas and hospice aide Sabrina, for their kindness and compassion during her final months; and the exceptional support offered by the ALS medical team at Cleveland VA Medical Center, Wade Park.
The family requests that material contributions in Gary’s memory be made to one 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.