Death of Joan M. Wagner, longtime mission advocate

Joan M. Wagner, 82, passed away Friday, July 27, in the Healthwin Specialized Care Facility. She was born on December 1, 1924, in South Bend, to the late William and Elsie (Nish) Griffis. On May 8, 1951, she married the love of her life, Raymond R. Wagner, who preceded her in death on October 4, 1998. They were married for 47 years.

Joan M. Wagner, 82, passed away Friday, July 27, in the Healthwin Specialized Care Facility. She was born on December 1, 1924, in South Bend, to the late William and Elsie (Nish) Griffis. On May 8, 1951, she married the love of her life, Raymond R. Wagner, who preceded her in death on October 4, 1998. They were married for 47 years.

Joan (pronounced Jo - ann) overcame a difficult time learning to type to become a respected office worker and bookkeeper. For a number of years she worked with Aulm Construction, conducting final inspections on their construction projects. She was originally hired as a receptionist, so Aulm Construction sent her to charm school. Joan joked that the only thing she learned was to get to know people better by saying, "Tell me more about yourself." Charming as she was, Joan had other skills. Eventually, she learned to read blueprints for the inspections and was the only woman in her class.

Pastor Don Kaufman recruited Joan's eye for detail, and she became the treasurer and bookkeeper at her beloved Zion United Church of Christ. Joan served her church with affection and deep commitment. Her involvements stretched from South Bend to missions around the world.

She was a member of numerous committees and boards at all levels of the church. Some highlights from a much longer list include the United Church Board for World Ministries, lifetime membership in FOCUS (Fellowship of Continuing Understanding and Support), Conference Boards of Directors and Association Board of Directors. Joan was a loyal member but also led. For years, she chaired the mission ministries at Zion UCC and regularly served as treasurer of several organizations.

In 2006, the Indiana-Kentucky Conference UCC Board of Directors awarded Joan the first-ever "Lifetime Indiana-Kentucky Conference Volunteer Recognition Award." In 1991, Joan received the gifts of Honored Laywoman Award. Her community involvements include the South Bend Community Development Advisory Board, the Hunger Task Force, Habitat for Humanity and the United Religious Community.

Rev. Steve Gray, UCC Indiana-Kentucky Conference Minister said of Joan:
"She was a giant in her local church and was a vocal and vociferous advocate for OCWM. God just doesn't make church volunteers like Joan (pronounced Jo - ann) any more.  When Joan spoke, we saluted!  Joan served about every chair in her local church, Zion UCC, in South Bend. During my tenure here she served on the Mission Interpretation and Stewardship Education Committee, the Social Issues and Services Committee, the Sri Lanka Taskforce of the Conference, the COPE Committee and the Board of Directors.  It was just a privilege to know and work with Joan."

But life was not all work for Joan. Ray and Joan's first date was an all-star game at Wrigley Field. They traveled to every major league park in the country and traveled abroad, especially enjoying several trips to England. They attended many years of reunions with Ray's 384th Army Air Force Bomber Group and Mishawaka High School. Joan collected teacups, German steins, scarves and other mementos. Her collections were not fancy but brought her great joy.

After entering hospice care, Joan made a thank-you list of people and experiences she valued. She wanted to thank God for how blessed she felt. The small mountain of get well cards testified to the value of these relationships.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, August 11, in Zion United Church of Christ, with Rev. David Gerth officiating. In loving memory of Joan, memorials may be made to the Zion United Church of Christ Elder's Reserve Fund. 

Notes of sympathy may be sent to Zion United Church of Christ, 715 E. Wayne St., South Bend, IN  46617.

 Letter of Sympathy from Executive Minister, Cally Rogers-Witte [PDF]

United States and CanadaLatin America and the CaribbeanAfricaMiddle East and EuropeSouthern Asia East Asia and the Pacific

Contact Information

  • Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson
  • Co-Executive Global Ministries,
    Associate General Minister, Wider Church Ministries and Operations
  • 700 Prospect Ave.
  • Cleveland,Ohio 44115
  • 216-736-3201
  • Fax: 216-736-3203

  • Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
  • Co-Executive Global Ministries,
    President, Division of Overseas Ministries
  • PO Box 1986
  • Indianapolis,Indiana 46206
  • 317-713-2576
  • Fax: 317-635-4323
  • jkarimu@dom.disciples.org

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