John Wagnitz died on Feb. 19, 2022 in the care of his son Manny and a wide circle of dedicated and loving friends who, along with Agrace Hospice, provided 24 hour love and support to John in his last few weeks. John had a short but courageous duel with glioblastoma and with the dignity, grace and humor that is John, chose to end treatment and return to his home.
Born in Kaukauna, WI April 21, 1965 to Fred and Doris Wagnitz, John was the youngest of 5 children. John was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Doris Wagnitz, and is survived by his siblings Nancy, Sharon, Mike, and Wendy; his son Manny; and numerous nieces and nephews. John grew up and attended school in Combined Locks, WI where he spent his summers fishing with his father, exploring the woods and fields of the area, and working as a caddy at the local country club. This position as a caddy provided far more than pocket money, however - for his faithful service he was awarded a full scholarship by the Evans Scholars Foundation that covered tuition, room, and board at UW Madison. During college, he returned home for the first few summers to work in his hometown’s paper mills until he realized that summers in Madison are what it’s all about. After college, he entered into a career of Democratic politics and social justice. Curious and adventurous in his younger adult days, John hopped freight trains, made friends within the community of box car travelers, and even attended the National Hobo convention in Britt, Iowa. A love for mass transit and dislike of single occupancy vehicle use, John gave up owning a car 20 years ago, preferring instead bikes, buses and trains. Biking was both transportation and Meditation, and his knowledge of rustic and rural roads throughout the Midwest was second to none.
John was ageless in his love of music and small live music venues, devoted to WORT 89.9FM, addicted to good coffee, and humbled by his apple tree. John came to yoga and meditation gradually, but made dedicated daily practice a significant part of the last decade of his life. John brought the commitment and passion that defined this relationship to all that he loved. While John made connections with everyone he met, he cultivated lasting relationships largely within the same 4-mile radius for most of his adult life. John will be missed by his community on Ohio Avenue with whom he shared a love of Madison’s Near East side for nearly 30 years; by his coworkers of 27 years, alongside whom he worked in support of democratic candidates and legislation toward a better Wisconsin; by his staggering network of dear friends and chosen family with whom he grew older, wiser, and more appreciative; and especially by his son, Manny, who shares John’s kindness, humor and generosity of spirit. John lived life on his own terms, and left everyone with the gift of knowing that he passed between worlds feeling both deeply content and lovingly supported.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, please make a donation to WORT 89.9 FM in John's name.
Please save the date: Saturday, May 14, 2022 for John Wagnitz’s Celebration of Life, 3pm to 9pm at Olin Park pavilion, 1156 Olin-Turville Ct, Madison, WI 53715. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.