Wagner Jr., 62, businessman, philanthropist

G. W.

May 15, 1995|By Gregory P. Kane and Howard Libit | Gregory P. Kane and Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writers

George Warren Wagner Jr., a Baltimore entrepreneur who re-established a family business and was chairman of a group that raised money for the Walters Art Gallery, died of an undetermined cause Wednesday at his home in Northeast Baltimore. He was 62.

During the late 1980s, Mr. Wagner was chairman of the William T. Walters Association, which was formed to raise money for the art gallery of the same name.

"His interests were in the theater, literature and art," said Evelyn L. Wagner, his wife of 24 years.

Gary Vikan, director of Walters, credited Mr. Wagner with being a "major player" in the gallery's 12 percent to 15 percent growth in the late 1980s, and estimated that he helped raise $300,000 to $400,000 per year.

"He got us to raise our sights and allowed us to reach the levels of fund-raising we are at now," Mr. Vikan said. "He was very valuable."

Mr. Wagner retired in 1993 as chairman of Wagner Bros. Container Inc., which manufactures corrugated shipping boxes. He started the company with his brother, Lawrence K. Wagner.

"We decided we didn't want to work for a big company, so we started our own," Lawrence Wagner said.

When they opened their plant in the 3300 block of Childs St. in Fairfield in November 1967, the Wagner brothers completed a cycle that started when both worked for the Eastern Box Co., which their family originally owned.

Eastern Box Co. underwent two changes of ownership between 1959 and 1967. Union Camp Corp. bought Eastern and, later, the Federal Paper Board Co. Inc. bought Union Camp. George Wagner was a salesman for all three companies.

"He never had to change his desk," Lawrence Wagner recalled. When they opened their company, George Wagner was president and Lawrence Wagner was vice president.

Lawrence Wagner is now president and chairman of the board of Wagner Bros.

The family's involvement in the box business began when the brothers' great-great-grandfather started the Martin Wagner Co. at Wagner's Point. In those days, vegetables were shipped in wooden crates. The crates eventually gave way to boxes. The company name also changed, becoming the East Brooklyn Box Co. and eventually the Eastern Box Co.

George Wagner graduated from the Gilman School in 1951 and earned a bachelor's degree in English from Princeton University in 1955. He joined the Navy after college, serving four years in Korea and Japan.

In addition to his work with the William T. Walters Association, Mr. Wagner belonged to the Elkridge Club and the Bachelors Cotillon. He had a passion for hunting with his two Brittany spaniels, Mrs. Wagner said.

"They're gone now, too," she said of the dogs. "But he loved them."

Summers found Mr. Wagner and his family at a vacation retreat in Cape May, N.J.

"It was a favorite spot," Mrs. Wagner recalled. "He loved to fish."

A memorial service was to be held at 10 a.m. today at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Mount Washington.

Mr. Wagner also is survived by two daughters, Evelyn C. Wagner and Elizabeth W. Wagner, both undergraduates at the University of Maryland; two nephews; and a niece.

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