John Wagner

John Wagner, of Fergus Falls, MN, passed away at his home while under hospice care following a battle with cancer on May 28, 2024.

John Richard Wagner was born on November 1, 1949, in Morris, MN, to Richard Frank Wagner and Dorothy Jean (Darling) Wagner. Growing up on the family farm in Framnas Township, he attended the one-room “Stone School” until 6th grade before graduating from Morris High School in 1967.

John attended Fergus Falls State Junior College, earning his AA in 1969, and later graduated Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Moorhead State College in 1971. A lifelong learner, he continued his academic pursuits, obtaining a master’s degree in Liberal Arts from Moorhead State University in 1984.

In 1971, John enlisted in the US Army and attended basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, before being stationed at Rhein-Main Air Force Base near Frankfurt, Germany, attaining the rank of Specialist. Honorably discharged in 1973, he returned to Morris to help on the farm while his father recovered from a farming accident. During this time, he also held multiple roles with Stevens County, including Deputy County Auditor, dispatcher, reserve police officer, and ambulance crewman.

In February 1975, John joined the Fergus Falls Police Department as a Patrol Officer. Over his 29-year tenure, he ascended through the ranks, ultimately becoming the Chief of Public Safety, a position he held with distinction until his retirement in 2004. Among his proudest career achievements was graduating from the 187th session of the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, VA, in 1996-1997, and receiving the Richard Schaller Award in 2003 from his Minnesota Police Chief peers, recognizing him for exceptional service and professionalism.

On May 1, 1976, he married Karma Joyce (Luebke). Together, they were blessed with two sons, Gregory John and Mitchell Fairbanks. They recently celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary.

John’s dedication to his community extended beyond his role as Chief; he actively participated in numerous boards, coaching endeavors, and community organizations. A lifelong educator, he taught classes for community education, self-defense, firearms safety and served as a UofM Extension Master Gardener. Additionally, he taught law enforcement classes for decades at Alexandria Tech and what is now known as MState.

In 2008, John embraced his favorite role yet: “Papa Daycare.” He cherished every moment spent with his eight grandchildren, finding immense joy in the title of “Papa/Grandpa.”

John is survived by his wife, Karma; children, Gregory (Tara) and Mitchell (Maegan); grandchildren, Alyssa, Emma, and Isaac; Jack, Emmalyn, Mason, Myles, and Millard; siblings, sister Randee Hokanson and brother Gary (Rose) Wagner; brother-in-law Kirt (Pat) Luebke; sister-in-law Karla (Ivan) Winger; sister-in-law Kay Loveland; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Richard and Dorothy; his in-laws, Geneal and Warren Luebke; and brothers-in-law, James Loveland and Steven Hokanson.

Memorial Service: 1:00 p.m. Monday, June 10, 2024 at First Lutheran Church, Fergus Falls with a visitation held one hour prior to the service at the church.

Clergy: Reverend Tiffany Sundeen 

A private family burial will be held at a later date.​Please click on this link the day of the service for a livestream.

Memorial gifts in lieu of flowers can be made to the Stevens County Historical Society, or the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

Arrangements provided by Olson Funeral and Cremation in Fergus Falls.

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