Hansen-Spear Funeral Home – Quincy, Illinois

Dr. Lavern J. Wagner

Dr. Lavern J. Wagner, age 86, of 2645 Hillside Drive, Quincy died Tuesday, December 4, 2012, at 4:50 pm in his home.

Lavern WagnerLavern was born December 30, 1925 in Bellevue, Iowa, the son of Theodore and Florence Mertz Wagner. He married Joan Mary Ernst on June 16, 1951 in Bellevue, Iowa. She preceded him in death May 8, 1996. He married Bernice Kee on September 5, 1998 in Quincy. She survives.

Dr. Wagner was the first student to receive the Bachelor of Music degree (maxima cum lauda, 1949) from Loras College, the Bachelor of Music Education (1952) from Oberlin College Conservatory, and the Master of Music (1953) and Doctor of Philosophy (1957) degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He was the first person to receive a PhD in musicology from the University of Wisconsin. He was the first Elsa A. Sawyer graduate scholar at Wisconsin (1952-1953), had University Fellowships (1955-1957) and was a National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellow in Renaissance Music (1975-1976)

Dr. Lavern Wagner was Professor Emeritus of Music at Quincy College in 1991, where he had served as professor of music and department chair for twenty-seven years (1958 to 1985). He developed one of the first music business programs in the country and was professor of music history and music theory. He also served as librarian of Quincy College (1986-1991). Lavern co-authored a music appreciation text, published numerous articles, served as an editor of sacred music, composed sacred works and three high school musicals. He and his family made three records. Wagner served as a cornetist in the United States Army for three years, performed in the Mississippi River Brass Band, and played in the Quincy Early Music Consort (on recorder and crumhorn), and the Heidelberg German Band (on accordion), and the Quincy Park Band. He was a member of the American Musicological Society, Society for American Music, American Recorder Society, and was secretary- treasurer of AFM Local 265 in Quincy.

He received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and was a guest speaker at Europalia 85 Espana in Brussels, Belgium in 1985. He received the Charles R. Winking Award for outstanding work in music education at Quincy College in 1991, and received the City of Quincy Arts Award in 2008. He was the only scholar to have publications in two disparate fields of music research ( 16th Century music and American Band music).

Twenty-five years of research into Spanish Renaissance music resulted in the publication of fourteen volumes. An interest in American band music of the mid-nineteenth century began about 1980 and led to the publication in 1998 of Band Music from the Benjamin H. Grierson Collection. Grierson was stationed at Ft. Davis, Texas following the end of the Civil War, and it was at this location that Wagner conducted considerable research into the General’s life. In addition to studying the General’s life and the mid-nineteenth century American band, Wagner has corrected the many errors found in the part books of this music. He lectured on this publication at SIU Carbondale, the Sonneck Society for American Music, the University of Memphis and Henderson State University in Arkansas. Dr. Wagner conducted a number of Grierson’s works on C-SPAN in 1994 at the recreation of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debate in Quincy.

He published their memoir, Pick up your Feet: A Family’s Music and Mirth, Living and Loving in 2003. Other publications include Phoenix Rising, and A History of the German Heidelberg Band as well as numerous articles in “Groves Dictionary of Music”.

Survivors include 14 children, Gerry (Holly) Wagner of Quincy, Mary (Jimmy) Hefferman of Glen Burnie, MD, Heidi (Timothy) Fielding of N Hollywood, CA, Brian (Audrey) Wagner of Carbondale, IL, Jeanine (Margaret) Wagner of Carbondale, IL, Bernadette (Tom) Allbaugh of Alta Loma, CA, Ted (Jean) Wagner, Abilene, TX, Cecilia Wagner of Philadelphia, PA, Martin (Karen) Wagner of Quincy, Catherine Wagner-Inman of Quincy, IL, Jillian (Cole) Miller of Quincy, IL, Erica Wagner, Newport News, VA, Chris Wagner of Quincy, IL, and Todd (Alaina) Wagner of Quincy; 28 grandchildren; two great grandchildren; 1 sister, Celesta Harrison, Yuma, AZ; five stepchildren, Ms. Pat Livingston of Quincy, IL, Cynthia (Sam) Edwards, Smithfield, NC, Diane (Terry) Riley, Quincy, IL, Mark (Linda) Walz, Olathe, KS, Greg Walz, Granite City, IL , Mary (Scott) Yates, Quincy, IL; 14 step grandchildren; 7 step great grandchildren.

Lavern was also preceded in death by his parents.

Services: 11:00 am Saturday, December 8, 2012 at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church with Rev. Marten Eden officiating.

Burial: Greenmount Cemetery, Quincy, Illinois

Visitation: 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Friday December 7, 2012 at Hansen-Spear Funeral Home

Memorials: Lavern Wagner Scholarship at Quincy University or Lavern and Joan Wagner Music Scholarship at Quincy High School


Hansen-Spear Funeral Directors are in charge of the arrangements.




  1. I learned of Dr. Wagner’s passing with both sadness and, after reflection, thankful appreciation. Sadness because I was hoping to seek his advice yet again on a new musical project I have in mind. Thankful appreciation for his life and influence on a generation of students who have in turn shared his passion for music and demonstrated human kindness with their students and families. Truly, a teacher can never know the extent of his influence. My musical career turned out to be short. As an avocation, music still plays a significant part in my life. Fortunately, Dr. Wagner never “spoon fed” his students. He taught us how to research and seek information for ourselves. As a result, we remain well prepared to follow our individual life interests. God’s grace and peace to all.

  2. I have so many fond memories of QC and Doctor Wagner. The QC years were the best years of my life and I learned so much from the faculty there at the time and especially Dr. Wagner’s theory and music history classes. He had several favorite sayings, one of which I always remember: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make the dumb beast gargle.” And the parallel fifths in theory class – “Do you like the way this sounds??” And then, he would play them VERY LOUDLY!!! 🙂 He was a wonderful scholar, teacher and person. We toured with Collegium Musicum and used all the old instruments and learned lots of Gregorian chants and Renaissance music! Thanks for the memories, Doc!!! You will be missed!

  3. Thinking of all of you with wonderful memories ….. your Dad was one of a kind and gained respect from all whose lives he touched . His legacy lives on through all of you with your music and the many talents your were blessed with from your mom and your dad. I will join you as you celebrate his life on earth. Love and hugs…Barbara

  4. Doc’s passing leaves a huge void in the music world and in Quincy. I’m so sorry for your loss. He and my Dad were colleagues and friends and our families seemed to be intertwined throughout my childhood. I was never one of his students, but most of my siblings were and sing his praises! Thinking of you all.

  5. Dr. Wagner was the kindest, most talented, most brilliant and yet most humble man I ever knew. I will never forget the first time I met him at a recital where Heidi was going to sing at the Quincy Conservatory of Music years and years ago. It was that sweet, catching smile that struck me immediately, a smile I will never forget. It wasn’t long before Dr. Wagner and his wife Joan became like second parents to me through my friendship with Heidi then later Jeanine, Catherine and Bernadette. I recently got to know Cecilia and her daughter Sophie when they came out to visit Heidi. My Wagner association is a very, very happy one. They are very dear and very special people. The world is a better place because of them. If everyone could have parents like Dr. Lavern Wagner and Joan, what a wonderful world this would be. Rest in peace, Papa Wagner. Your smile lives on in the faces of every one of your children.

  6. I only knew him as Mr. Wagner or “Dad”….so many memories in the house before Locust…listening to you all practicing…”Dad” leading the group…”Mom” making all your matching outfits…Jill and Cathy twirling around in their dresses and singing in their little girl sing-song voices….I remember “Dad” laughing a lot when you were all together….I remember all the meals at the “Locust” house…everyone laughing and working to get the meal ready for all the kids….I remember his beautiful music room…and the pride he would take in talking about the various instruments and books….I remember all the love and music that was always in your home…no matter where you lived….I remember “Dad”…and I will always hold him in my heart with deep affection! I knew him as “dad”…it wasn’t until now that I learned what a gift he was to the world of music…I know what a gift he was to me. I am so sorry for your great, great loss…and ours.

  7. Please accept my condolence for your loss. As a former student ( mid 1970’s) I remember “Doc” as a teacher and mentor. He was a great scholar/musician, always ready to offer advice and wisdom. He had a wide ranging intellect, and really seemed to love teaching and learning. He is one of the people that I often remember and think about, who always makes me smile. He was a great example as I started my own career as a teacher and musician, and I know he inspired countless others.

  8. To the Wagner family:
    I am DEEPLY sorry for your loss. While I knew only of your father through discussions with Dr. (Jeanine) Wagner, I did not know of his historical connection to the pursuit of American musicology, as well as Spanish musicology. I feel that musicians world wide are at a great loss by his passing. It is with that I offer my deepest heart felt condolences at this time. Many music programs world wide could not exist without the work of your father. Thank you, Dr. Lavern J. Wagner!

  9. Though I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Wagner in person, I am friends with his daughter, Jillian, and I know his love and his musical gifts live on in his children and his grandchildren. What a wonderful legacy!

  10. My hearts is with you all in this time of sorrow.
    I could tell that one of Doc’s greatest joys was teaching others about music. You could just see it in his eyes. I’m very lucky to have been one of his students. This planet will not be the same without him.

Leave a Condolence

Words can’t express how grateful we are for all you and your staff have done for us at this difficult time.  You’are like a well oiled machine with every part […]

— S. S.

The constant communication throughout the entire planning was much appreciated and the amount of items you were able to take off our family’s plate during this stress time was priceless.

— R. H.

My wife died out of state.  A call was made to Hansen-Spear in Quincy and they immediately took over.  It made my concerns evaporate.

— L. B.