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Business owner always gave 100 percent

Local businessman K. Edward “Kim” Wagner, who died Wednesday at the age 59, may not have been the best player on the field, but he gave life 100 percent.

Wagner Kim


So much so that he supported a tradition at the Bellefontaine High School that still is known as the “battered helmet award.”

“The last game of our senior year, Kim got to start as offensive lineman,” against Fairborn Park Hills, said former football teammate and fellow 1971 Bellefontaine High School graduate Ed Wallace.

“He was probably the smallest offensive lineman in Bellefontaine history,” Mr. Wallace laughingly recalled, adding, it was his former teammate’s competitive drive and work ethic that helped him succeed on the athletic field.

He wanted the award to be presented to a player who wasn’t the best athlete or who saw a lot of playing time, but always gave 100 percent effort.

Mr. Wagner, or “Wags” as he was known to his close friends, not only supported athletics, but was respected as a businessman and community advocate.

“What can you say about a man of that caliber?” said Steve Austin, who worked with Mr. Wagner while they served on the Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce and Logan County United Way boards.

“It’s hard to put words on it. He was just such a great guy who would do anything for anybody and help with anything you needed. He was a true pillar of the community.”

But there were some things Mr. Wagner wouldn’t accept help on, his former neighbor and business colleague Tim O’Rielley said.

“It was fun living next door to him,” Mr. O’Rielley said. “It was when he and Tara first started dating. He was so excited when he was going to propose.”

He took his future wife to the 1996 Citrus Bowl, where he had paid to have the message “Will you marry me Tara?” on the jumbotron, Mr. O’Rielley said.

But one day both neighbors had plumbing problems and Mr. O’Rielley had borrowed a rooter to take care of the issue on his side.

With a bit of self-proclaimed expertise he offered to help Mr. Wagner with his plumbing issues, but it backfired.

“I ended up causing more problems and it cost him about $350 to call the plumber,” Mr. O’Rielley joked. “So whenever I would see him, I would ask ‘You need anything Wags?’ and he would say ‘No, I think I’m OK.’ ”

Mr. Wagner, who studied at Urbana University, went on to shoot photos of Formula 1 racing for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. before returning to the area.

He worked as a manager trainee and former assistant manager of the American Finance Company before starting the Bellefontaine Investors Inc. and Oasis Drive Thru carry-out stores in Sidney. He eventually left this organization’s two successful operations in 1981 to become an independent sales representative for Design Original Inc., of Jackson Center. In 1982, he founded the Progressive Specialties Co. where he later became the sole stockholder and president.

But Mr. Wagner was probably best known for his community service, which included terms as chairman of the board on both the Logan County Area Chamber of Commerce and Logan County United Way. Those roles in the community helped him earn the chamber’s prestigious Richard J. Rupp Leadership Award, which was presented last week at the organization’s annual meeting.

“Wags didn’t have a big ego. He liked everybody else to be front and center,” Mr. O’Rielley said. “Kim was one of those guys who was very easy to work with and didn’t want credit for anything.

“I was there when they told him about the award and he said ‘Other people have done more than I have, it should go to someone else.’

“One thing about Kim, he always had a smile on his face,” Mr. O’Rielley said. “He liked everybody. You always knew where you stood with Kim. He  was a person of high integrity and morals.”

Eichholtz Funeral Home is handling arrangements, which were incomplete as of press time today.

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