Cover photo for Richard Paul Wagner's Obituary
Richard Paul Wagner Profile Photo
1966 Rich 2024

Richard Paul Wagner

August 8, 1966 — June 23, 2024

Middleton

Richard Paul (Rich) Wagner, 57, of Middleton, Wisconsin, died of complications from pancreatic cancer on June 23, 2024. He slipped away while at home on his farm in the Wyoming Valley, enveloped in the love of his family and the soothing sounds of nature.

Rich was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 8, 1966. His creative, adventurous spirit took shape in an enriching childhood and ultimately guided him through a life filled with extraordinary experiences. His youthful pursuits reflected his wide-ranging interests: he attended local herpetological society meetings, worked as a ranch hand, competed in rodeo events, made art films, built computers, and finally, caught the “travel bug” upon visiting Belize following high school graduation.

His professional endeavors were similarly diverse. As a young professional he held positions at Meramec State Park (naturalist and interpreter), the St. Louis Science Center (science educator), STREAM / American Youth Foundation (experiential educator), and a start-up consulting company he founded with a partner. In later years he transitioned to classroom teaching with a focus on elementary science education. Rich’s fascination with the natural world and love of learning were common threads through all these positions.

Rich met his wife, Danielle, in 2002 while teaching at Forsyth School in St. Louis. When she received a job offer in the Madison, Wisconsin area, he saw the chance to relocate with her as a new adventure. He served briefly as an educator for the Dane County Humane Society before finding the special school that would become his professional home in Madison for the remainder of his career: Hickory Hill Academy. Hickory Hill started out as a small-scale early childhood education center and over the years grew into the impressive high-tech multiplex it is today. Rich was intimately involved in its development and was proud to leave a legacy of strong science education upon his retirement.

Rich and Danielle built a wonderful life together in Madison, establishing roots in a charming neighborhood, working in fulfilling professions, raising beloved pets, and developing deep friendships. Rich’s curious, engaging nature permeated his married life, and he became an invaluable partner while maintaining his own personal spark. Those who knew Rich admired his generosity and quick wit, and they were often amazed by his knowledge of numerous topics. As in his youth, his interests were vast and varied; his hobbies ranged from ham radio operation, to amateur archaeology, to studying foreign languages and traveling the world with Danielle.

In 2021, Rich purchased a farm in the Wyoming Valley, near Spring Green, Wisconsin, and retired from teaching to embark on a personal project: restoring the rural landscape to a natural state. In recent years he has enjoyed the physical labor involved in installing acres of native prairie, fighting invasive plants in the forest, and providing new habitat for snakes, frogs, mammals, and all manner of local flora, and fauna. He felt intensely fortunate to have spent his final years engaged in this rewarding labor of love.

Friends, family, colleagues, and students will remember Rich as a passionate naturalist, a dedicated teacher, a vibrant leader within his chosen community, and so much more. 

A celebration of Rich’s life will be held in Madison, Wisconsin, at a later time. 

In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Rich may be made to Community Connections Free Clinic in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, via online donation or by mailing a check to CCFC, 101 E. Fountain St., P.O. Box 184, Dodgeville, WI 53533.

To order memorial trees in memory of Richard Paul Wagner, please visit our tree store.

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