Frederick Wayne Wagnon

By  | September 4, 2022 | Filed under: Obituaries, Rideout' Brown Service

On Sunday, August 27, 2022, Frederick Wayne Wagnon, devoted husband and father, passed away peacefully at age 89 surrounded by family following a brief illness. Wayne’s loving wife, Estelle Ogletree Wagnon, preceded her husband into the afterlife in February of 2019. He is survived by his three sons: Andrew Wayne Wagnon; William Frederick Wagnon and his wife Amy; Bruce Benjamin Wagnon and his wife Cindy; four grandchildren: Megan, Erin, Justin and Brittany; four great-grandchildren; and his niece, Cindy Hardy Moore, daughter of his dear departed sister, Shirley Wagnon Hardy.

Wayne was born July 31, 1933 in Siloam, Georgia to Frederick Emory Wagnon and Lola Mae (Underwood) Wagnon. Following a youth spent on the family farm, Wayne graduated Greensboro High School in 1950 and afterwards attended Berry College, a private liberal arts college near Rome, Georgia founded on values based on Christian principles, where he graduated in 1954 with a B.S. in Physics. Prior to graduation, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama offered him a job after a single interview, but Wayne shortly thereafter left the agency to pursue a graduate degree, having been awarded an assistantship to the University of Georgia. He returned to the arsenal a year later, working in the areas of flight guidance and ground control for missile systems.  This exciting career opportunity outside his home state prompted him to propose marriage to the tall, dark-haired, intelligent beauty from Union Point that he met two years earlier on a blind date arranged by his cousin, and so began his family in the Rocket City.

In July 1960, Wayne was invited to be among the first engineers transferred into NASA’s new George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. During his 28-year career in federal aeronautics programs and a subsequent professional life in consulting and management, Wayne received numerous awards and accolades for his accomplishments playing pivotal senior rolls in the development and deployment of several seminal aerospace programs: Explorer 1, our country’s first satellite, launched in January of 1958; the Saturn family of rockets as space exploration vehicles; the Apollo program, which succeeded in landing the first humans on the Moon; the Lunar Roving Vehicle Project, for which Wayne was Chief Engineer; Skylab, the first US space station; and the Space Transportation System program, more commonly known as the Space Shuttle. Throughout his career, Wayne would remark that the joke was on the government because he liked his work so much that he would willingly pay them to do it.

During his life, Wayne enjoyed an active and intensely personal relationship with the churches he attended. He believed in ministering the teachings of Jesus, not through words of proselytization, but instead through selfless acts of charity and kindness that he referred to as “purposeful service.” Wayne taught Sunday School, served as a church elder, and tithed religiously. He volunteered six years as the District Officer for AARP, logging countless unpaid hours to serve the elderly community of North Alabama. He was a Scout Master for Troop 275 in Priceville, Alabama, mentoring young boys into good men. He (often with the help of close friends) raised vegetable gardens from which much was donated to local Food Banks to feed the hungry. He financially supported several charitable organizations, and he frequently donated his precious, life-saving Type O positive blood to the Red Cross, coming just a few pints short of reaching the ten-gallon mark over his lifetime. And lastly, but far from least, Wayne was a lifelong dog lover; lucky indeed was the stray puppy that found its way into his home, for in it those dogs found a gentle master and constant companion of unequaled devotion and care.

Wayne Wagnon was a gentle soul, loved and respected by all his family and friends. He will be greatly missed and warmly remembered. A memorial service will be held at Noon on Saturday, September 3rd, at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Decatur, Alabama. In lieu of flowers, the family would be honored if friends will consider a donation to your local Food Bank in Wayne’s memory.

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