West Des Moines

DONALD R. WAGNER, 75, died peacefully in his wife’s loving arms on October 14, 2020 at UnityPoint Health – Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Des Moines. No visitation or service will be held. A Celebration of Life will be at a later date.

Don was born in San Francisco, CA on June 10, 1945 to Janet and Richard Wagner. He graduated from Capuchino High School in San Bruno, CA, attended College of San Mateo (CA), graduated with a B.A. in Political Science/History from San Francisco State University, and earned a Teaching Certificate for Economics/Education through Graduate Studies at Drake University. He began his career in the Saydel School District from 1972-76 teaching special education, social studies, and photography. His interest in real estate then took over.

After getting his foot in the door with some smaller agencies, Don started Wagner & Associates in 1981 and was named “REALTOR® of the Year” by the Board of REALTORS® in 1987. After running the brokerage for years and serving in different leadership roles for the Greater Des Moines Board of REALTORS®, Don began educating others in the real estate field. He served as Director of Education for the Iowa Association of REALTORS® and, during his tenure, was recognized by the National Association of REALTORS® for developing the outstanding education program of the year. Don began teaching throughout the state of Iowa for the Iowa Association of REALTORS® and, in 2008, was given the “Adult Educator of the Year” award from the Iowa Institute of Lifelong Learning (a group composed of the state and private universities and community colleges throughout Iowa). In 2018, Don was surprised with the “Excellence in Education” award from the Iowa Association of REALTORS®. He continued teaching for the Association until his death.

Don’s most prized part of his life was his daughter, Elizabeth. She was born in 1982 and he was devoted to her. They did so many activities together including traveling, kayaking, theatre, artwork, hiking, music, and just living life to its fullest. He was devastated when Elizabeth unexpectedly passed away in 2018 at age 36. He missed her each and every day and now they are together again.

Due to his love of theatre, Don auditioned for a show at the Ingersoll Dinner Theater in 1991. When he was cast in that production, little did he know his life would forever be changed. He crossed paths with Barbara Merrill and a romance began almost immediately. The two were married in 1996 and were anticipating their 24th wedding anniversary on November 2, 2020. Barb and Don traveled, kayaked, hiked, were avid “fur parents”, and enjoyed theatre and music all over the Des Moines area. They spent their marriage introducing each other to different aspects of each other’s lives and lived every day full of life, laughter, and love. They encouraged each other to be the best they could be in every part of life and shared a love that will endure forever.

He was an active member of Talent Ltd. and adored meeting once a month with this group of wonderful people from all walks of life. He loved attending and supporting all theatre and music venues throughout the Des Moines area and it was one of the biggest parts of his life.

Don was preceded in death by his parents Janet and Richard; daughter Elizabeth; and father-in-law Warren Merrill. Remembering his life and love are his wife Barbara; sister Carole (Gary) Sugarman; mother-in-law Doris Merrill; brother-in-law David (Piper) Merrill; sister-in-law Susan (Scott) Casber; nephews Ian Sugarman, Chad Merrill, Andy Merrill, Mike Fong, Chole Casber, and Adam Haselhuhn; niece Debbie Bauer; close cousin Fred (Noreen) Poli; a number of great nieces and nephews; and especially cats Willie Nelson and Winnifred. Don’s life was full of lasting friendships and he will be sorely missed by his best friend Don Stackhouse and special friends Mary (Randy) Gordon.

Memorial donations can be either sent to the family and forwarded on to the following organizations or donated directly by US mail or on their websites: Ankeny Community Theatre, PO Box 122, Ankeny, IA 50023, with a special donor box for Don Wagner; Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity, PO Box 176, Des Moines, IA 50303, with a notation for memorial to Don Wagner.

For a printable form of this obituary, go to Arranged by Hamilton’s Funeral Home on Lyon.

Service Details

Hamilton's Funeral Home
605 Lyon Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
(515) 243-5221

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