Jan Wagner, 83, of Peoria, passed gracefully into Heaven on Friday (Dec. 22, 2017), surrounded by her family, after complications from a hemorrhagic stroke at Richard L. Owens Hospice Center, Peoria.
Jan was born late on a snowy Dec. 16, 1934, to Russell and Inis Romine at their rural farmhouse in Downs. Doc Williams was summoned by horseback through the storm. Jan was the seventh of 15 Romine children. The eighth, Jan’s twin, Janiece (Stanger), came as a surprise early the next morning. The Romine family lived and farmed near LeRoy, and attended Downs area schools and United Methodist Church, Downs.
The story of Jan’s life truly began the day Donnie Wagner met eyes with her across the classroom in seventh grade. She accepted his offer of a stick of gum and the rest was a love story for the ages.
It was then that Jan began her lifelong relationship with her second family, the Wagners. This close-knit bunch has supported Don and Jan through sickness and health, good times and bad.
After nine years of courtship, the two were married Sept. 2, 1956, in Downs, and recently celebrated their 62nd anniversary. The couple moved to Chicago as part of Don’s tour of duty in the Army, then returned to the family farm.
In 1960, Don and Jan packed their belongings into a ’49 Chevrolet and moved West – 50 miles west – to Peoria. Here they would make good friends, enjoy their neighbors and embrace the Peoria community. Jan worked for 35 years at Caterpillar Headquarters, as secretary to the medical director. She scheduled and processed all internal medical physicals, including international transfers, so there were not many who did not know Jan’s sweet smile and pleasant disposition.
Don and Jan welcomed and raised their first and only daughter, Lisa Lynn Wagner (Smith), in 1962. They enjoyed her years at the University of Illinois, during the ‘glory days’ of Illini sports in the 1980s. Don and Jan continued to keep their season tickets long after Lisa graduated.
Don and Jan were fortunate to visit places far beyond their wildest dreams when they met in the tiny schoolhouse many years earlier. From Antarctica to Russia, Egypt to China, the Mediterranean to Alaska, the couple enjoyed tours with friends, often making more friends along the way. One of Jan’s favorite trips was to the Holy Land and Jerusalem.
In Peoria, Lisa married Cory Smith of Chillicothe in 1986 and set in motion Act II of Jan’s life, better known as “The Nana Years.” Jan was president of and avid supporter of ‘Don and Jan’s Amazing Grandchildren Club.’ She and Don attended every event, including soccer and swim meets, football games, cheerleading competitions, plays, musicals and graduations.
Most notably, she was at every music performance for each of her grandchildren, Dylan Gregory, Laura Mae, Jenna Leigh, and Anna Grace. Whether at the Naperville Riverwalk or Chicago’s Symphony Center, she was there. Known as “Nana” to anyone north of I-80, she charmed, hugged and kissed almost everyone she met.
In Peoria, Jan and Don built two dream homes, currently in Weaver Ridge, where they’ve lived since 2000. Built as a respite and haven for the kids, Jan’s talents as a dedicated gardener and meticulous homemaker are evident throughout. The couple developed and treasured their social life with the neighborhood community until last week. They also spent many winters in The Villages, Fla., with the close-knit ‘Yahoo’ group, in addition to many other special groups of friends.
Despite her diminutive and petite stature, Jan had a will and might that confounded doctors, families and friends. She loved and lived larger than life and will be truly missed. The sun did not shine on 22 December and the wind chimes she so loved hung silently for a few moments, but we know that her spirit and light will live on although she has moved on to live in the Glory of Heaven.
Jan is also survived by her sweetheart, Don, her one true love.
She is survived by siblings, Janiece (Dean Stanger), Barbara Layten, Scott (Mary Lou) Romine, Kay (Joyce) Romine, Nadine Weber, Ron Romine and Owen Romine, and over 40 Romine nieces and nephews; by the Wagner clan, Ken and Sally Wagner, Colleen and Bill Armitage, along with the families of Mark, Joni, Staci, Todd, Michael, Brian and Matt; and also her daughter, Lisa and son-in-law, Cory.
Nana is also survived by her grandchildren, Dylan Gregory (Chicago), Laura Mae (Seattle), Jenna Leigh (Champaign) and Anna Grace (Indianapolis).
Visitation will be 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Davison Fulton Woolsey Wilton in Peoria. Her funeral will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at United Methodist Church, Downs. A graveside service will follow at Hopewell Cemetery in Downs.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Richard L Owens Hospice.