1930 - 2018 (88 years)
||Patricia "Pat" Gardiner |
||9 Feb 1930
||Cambridge, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
||Patricia "Pat" Wagner |
|Eby ID Number
||10 May 2018
||3 Sep 2019 |
|Born - 9 Feb 1930 - Cambridge, Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada
- Lifetimes: Passionate, dogged historian helped preserve Governor's House and Gaol
Patricia Wagner formerly of Kitchener, born: Feb. 9, 1930, in Cambridge, died: May 10, 2018, of Alzheimer's disease
NEWS 06: 26 PM by Valerie Hill Waterloo Region Record
CAMBRIDGE \emdash There is a common theme when friends and family of Pat Wagner describe the historian: passionate and dogged.
"She was inquisitive and never gave up and she just loved history, she loved local history," said retired regional councillor, Jean Haalboom, a fellow historian. The two had worked on several committees together, embarked on heritage projects such as the restoration of the 1852 Waterloo County Gaol and Governor's house in Kitchener.
The question of what to do with the crumbly old buildings was of interest to Pat, Jean and other supporters. At one point Pat \emdash always well-armed with facts and figures \emdash addressed council and told them that the old lady needed a facelift.
That was Pat's way, never vitriolic or demanding. Her method was softer, quieter but always determined. The five-minute time slot allotted by council usually turned to 30 minutes of Pat delivering a compelling argument backed by facts.
"She was inspiring, a real team member," said Jean. "She was always positive, we never heard her say 'this isn't going to work.'"
Pat and Jean were co-chairs of the Friends of the Governor's House and Gaol which opened in 2002. The following year, the group was recognized with the Mike Wagner Heritage Award, an award named after Pat's late husband, a former regional councillor and heritage advocate.
To honour Pat's contributions to the community, the annual award was recently renamed the Mike and Pat Wagner Heritage Award.
For Pat, the governor's house and gaol (an old English term for jail) was about more than just restoring buildings. She wanted to discover the backstory \emdash who built it and what went on in the jail, what did the prisoners do every day, what did they eat, what were their crimes?
Jean said "she wanted to know the stories behind the buildings." Pat would spend days, weeks, months talking to people, following leads, reading old newspaper clippings, rifling through archives at the universities and the Kitchener Public Library's Grace Schmidt Room for local history.
"Her and Jean, they were driven by passion," said Susan Hoffman, the retired history librarian.
Susan said "Pat was like a terrier with a bone, she would never give up," adding the research was particularly difficult because there was never a single source for information. An exceptional researcher, Pat knew where to look, how to interpret even minor leads knowing it could unveil some fascinating facts and she did all this in the days before technology.
As her son, Peter Wagner, said "She did everything by phone or fax" as well as talking to anyone who might have even a smidge of information. The name of everyone she ever met was filed away in her brain for future reference sources.
"She was a voracious reader," said Peter. "She was a very detailed person, what she did in her history work and she was sometimes disappointed that other people didn't appreciate those details."
Her passion for history led Pat to join virtually every local historical group, including the North Waterloo Branch of the Architectural Conservancy, Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation, Waterloo Historical Society, Heritage Kitchener, Regional Heritage Planning Advisory Committee, Friends of Joseph Schneider Haus and Doon Heritage Crossroads.
From where did this interest emanate? Peter thinks it likely started when she researched her Irish father's heritage.
Charles Gardiner was an orphan sent to Canada in 1909 at age 14, one of the Bernardo Children, a program that sent orphaned, abandoned or destitute children to Canada to work as farm labourers or domestic servants. Many of the children were abused, used as cheap labour.
Pat was fascinated with her father's history and Peter thinks this might have been the beginning, as one fact about her dad lead to more research which expanded to local history. Her interest grew like roots, spreading, seeking the tiniest nourishing detail.
What Pat discovered in all her projects was so comprehensive she co-authored "Guide to Historical Resources in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo" a compilation of years of research.
The 1989 reference book included archival collections from more than 175 museums, libraries, archives, government offices, social agencies, clubs and businesses.
Pat's interest in history was shared by her husband Mike, head of the English department at Eastwood Collegiate for three decades. They had met at a dance. Son, Tony Wagner, said his dad lived in Kitchener, his mom in Cambridge and every Friday night a bus would load up with young people headed to Kitchener for some excitement. It was the highlight of their week.
The couple married in 1954, lived in London for awhile before moving to Kitchener where they spent their married lives and raised Tony and Peter.
Pat was always close to her family, particular her mother's eight sisters, none of whom ever married. Pat's mom was the only married sibling.
Tony said the sisters lived together in the Cambridge family home, fiercely independent and strong willed \emdash and not too fond of men.
On the plus side, Tony believes his mother inherited the old aunties' spirited view of life and she thoroughly enjoyed their company, eventually becoming their caregiver along with her sister, Maureen.
Prior to marriage, Pat had worked as a bank teller which Jean joked, made her a determined watchdog over the finances in any committee she served on.
Peter said his parents loved to travel and history was their guide, taking them across North America and to many of Europe's major cities.
"They loved to research travel," said Peter. "My dad was an English teacher and he'd take students during March break on tours to different European capitals, pointing out historical highlights. Pat went too.
Mike was the social butterfly, the one who was comfortable talking to crowds. Pat was the quiet one, more introspective but she could easily engage with people. She just wasn't interested in accolades or being in the limelight though everything she did thrust her into the very spotlight she tried to avoid.
Pat was honoured with the 2009 Ontario Senior of the Year Award for Waterloo Region and the 2012 Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement.
As a couple, Pat and Mike were involved in the local arts scene, they both read three newspapers at breakfast every day. They kept up on current events and were leaders in curling associations, hosting large tournaments and serving on executives.
There is a barely a corner of life in Waterloo Region that was not somehow touched by Pat and Mike.
Hill, V. (2018). Lifetimes: Passionate, dogged historian helped preserve Governor's House and Gaol. TheRecord.com. Retrieved 4 June 2018, from https://www.therecord.com/news-story/8647594-lifetimes-passionate-dogged-historian-helped-preserve-governor-s-house-and-gaol/