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Geza Wagner

June 24, 1932 May 7, 2011
Geza Wagner
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Obituary for Geza Wagner

PEORIA-Geza Wagner 78, of Peoria died at 4:14 a.m. May 7, 2011 at Washington Christian Village after a long illness. Surviving are his wife, Mary Ellen Clancy, and his daughters by his second marriage, Susanna Wagner and Victoria Wagner. Geza was preceded in death by his first wife, Magdalene, an infant son, George and his brother, Joseph. Geza was born in Debrecen, Hungary on June 24, 1932. He grew up in Budapest, where he spent his teenage years during World War II. When the Soviet communists took control of Hungary following the war, Geza’s father was seized and sent to a labor camp in Siberia, leaving Geza to look after his mother and younger brother. He received a classical education at the St. Laszlo Gimnazium, and studied for two and a half years at the Nicholas Ibl Architectural College. In 1956, Geza, along with his first wife, escaped the communist regime by crossing on foot into Austria through heavily patrolled and mined terrain. They received asylum in the United States, where Geza became a citizen in 1962. In 2008 Geza was invited to share the details of this dramatic and daring story with the adult education classes at Bradley University. He subsequently presented his narrative at Spoon River College, the Optimists’ Club, and other organizations. Geza began his Caterpillar career in 1959 as a lab technician, and progressed through various positions until 1987, when he became coordinator for the Shows and Exhibits Division, where he remained until his retirement in 1998. Geza enjoyed chess and was a zealous tennis player for many years. He traveled extensively, both in the United States and abroad, and was proud to have visited almost every U.S. presidential library. Geza was a lifelong opera lover. He was a board member of the Opera Illinois League until his death, and contributed many hours of work and energy to promoting the enjoyment of opera, especially for young people. A Memorial Mass will be 2:00 p.m. Saturday, May 14, 2011 at St. Thomas Catholic Church in Peoria Heights. Rev. Thomas Taylor officiating. Visitation will be from 11:30 a.m. until 1:15 p.m. at the church followed by a Musical Presentation from 1:30-2 p.m. Cremation rites accorded. Private burial of ashes will be held at a later date in St. Joseph Cemetery. Wright & Salmon Mortuary is in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are to Washington Christian Village, 1201 Newcastle Road, Washington, IL 61571 or to Opera Illinois League, 3805 N. Knoxville Avenue, Peoria, IL 61614. Tributes and condolences may be submitted to


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