Holy Wisdom Monastery
Memorial Service for R. Richard (Dick) Wagner
April 30, 2022, 3 pm
Homily by Lynne Smith, OSB
It won’t surprise you to know that Dick made detailed plans for his memorial service. He chose the readings and the music. He chose the pictures to be displayed and the people he wanted involved if they were available. He planned for refreshments after the service and the portrait he wanted on the program cover. As the consummate and elegant host that he was, he planned this, his final gathering, to provide for us that we might remember him and enjoy one another’s company.
The scripture readings Dick chose were some that guided his life. He was a living example of the commandment to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself. These words of faith, mercy, justice and love were written on Dick’s heart. Dick knew God to be loving, generous, welcoming and just. He embodied these values in his words and actions and inspired them in others. Dick chose life by working for justice, kindness, civility and love in his public and private life.
In his public service, as a gay man, Dick faced many challenges, but he never saw others as enemies. He accepted the best in people. He didn’t let himself be drawn into partisan politics. He knew how to work across the political divide. He could sit across the table with people who differed from him, never forcing his point of view, but, thoughtfully, and in a measured, wise and persistent way worked toward his goal.
The commandment to love God with all one’s heart, soul, strength and mind and one’s neighbor as oneself was written in Dick’s heart and soul. He lived his whole life in response to this commandment. Dick’s neighbor was anyone in need and especially LGBTQ+ persons. He was a role model and support to so many. One of his friends characterized him as a gentle revolutionary, an intellectual who pushed the envelope with class and dignity.”
Dick was involved in many ways here at Holy Wisdom monastery. He was a long-time member of Sunday Assembly, a member of the mission advancement committee and a regular sponsor for events. He led the campaign to raise money to purchase the land east of the monastery to keep it from being developed. He named it Wisdom Prairie.
Dick served as a host here chairing the angel tea – a formal tea with baked goods and tea sandwiches (many baked by Dick himself). He personally collected tea pots and angels throughout the year so that each guest could receive one. It was a gracious event that grandmothers, mothers and daughters especially looked forward to sharing.
Dick’s “partner” was the community whom he served. Dick was the neighbor who worked tirelessly on behalf of the city, the county and state, serving in public office, on numerous boards, commissions, and non-profits. He died as he lived, serving a neighbor. Dick blessed the Madison community, the state and all who knew him by his service and friendship. May his spirit live on in us and all who were touched by his life.
I was not able to attend the memorial service, but I am grateful to mourn Dick’s loss and celebrate his beautiful life through sister Lynn’s touching words of truth.