SHELBY -- The first Ohioan to die from COVID-19 was a 1961 graduate of Shelby High School who never lost his love for the Whippets, according to an obituary published in the Toledo Blade.
Mark "Mick" Duane Wagoner Sr., 76, died Wednesday from the coronavirus that has swept across the United States from its origins in China. His death was announced on Friday.
As of Saturday, there were 247 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and three deaths. A total of 58 people are hospitalized, state officials said.
Born in Toledo on April 4, 1943, Wagoner died surrounded by his family on March 18.
"In between those two dates, he enjoyed a wonderful life of 76 years. Mick had a boundless ability to love and always looked for the best in everyone he met. And he was funny, always quick with a joke and a reminder to never take ourselves too seriously. Mick left an amazing legacy of warmth and fun," his obituary said.
After spending his early years in Toledo, Wagoner moved with his family to a farm in Shelby, along with his brother, John "Bud" Wagoner.
Wagoner graduated from Shelby High School in 1961, "where he took great pride in being part of the powerhouse Shelby Whippet football teams of the time."
Wagoner was also a sprinter on the Shelby track team, where he set the school record for the 100-yard-dash.
"He was voted the 'Most Charming' person in his senior class, and left Shelby with wonderful friends and memories. So great was his love for Shelby that he named every Ottawa Hills youth team he later coached the 'Whippets,'" the obituary said.
According to a story on the WTOL website, fellow attorney Mark Davis coached with Wagoner at Ottawa Hills Junior High School.
"He was gruff, very hard nosed. But he wanted to make sure kids were having fun," Davis said of the head football coach.
Wagoner attended Ohio Northern University on a football and track scholarship. He was the starting running back for the Polar Bears football team, and a sprinter on the track team. He also somehow managed to find his way on to the Polar Bears ice hockey team.
"He went to college with plans of becoming a football coach with a dream to coach the Cleveland Browns. For the years that followed, every time the Browns had an opening for a new head coach, he would call his kids to say this was the time the Browns would give him the job so he could implement his beloved single-wing offense in the NFL," the obituary said.
Wagoner graduated from Ohio Northern in 1965 with12 varsity letters and as a member of the "N" Men for academic achievement. But, as it turns out, he had so much fun in Ada that his plans of becoming a football coach soon changed.
"He instead decided to spend another three years in law school at Ohio Northern. He graduated from the Ohio Northern University School of Law in 1968 with great friends, stories, and as a legend to the bars on Main Street. We suspect that he may have even gone to a class or two," the obituary said.
After seven years at Ohio Northern, Wagoner moved back to Toledo to practice law. He started practicing law out of a garage, but soon reunited with his brother Bud to form Wagoner, Steinberg, Chinnis & Smith in 1971, now known as Wagoner & Steinberg in Holland, Ohio.
"He was very proud of the firm and its contributions to its clients, community, and local bar associations. He particularly enjoyed the Annual Gridiron Show and managing the Wagoner & Steinberg softball team of "file clerks" (better known as the 1993 Ottawa Hills High School State Runner-Up Baseball Team) to three consecutive championships in the Toledo Bar Association Softball league. Salaries for the team were apparently paid in beer," the obituary said.
Wagoner focused his practice on family law for more than 50 years, working up until the week before his passing.
"He was remembered for his high ethics and as a great lawyer, helping his clients navigate some of their worst personal challenges with perspective and humor, while giving fatherly advice and being their fierce advocate. He took particular joy interacting with his colleagues in the bar and courts, where he would be eager to share the latest joke or funny story.
"As he progressed in his practice, he was recalled for his fatherly mentorship of younger lawyers. Once, a young attorney was struggling in a court case while cross-examining a witness. Mick – as the opposing attorney – asked the judge for a brief recess so he could teach the younger attorney how to overcome the procedural hurdle. Similar stories were told throughout his career. He was a Lifetime Fellow of the Toledo Bar Association and a proud member of the Fulton County Bar Association," the obituary said.
"Mick's greatest joy was his family. His wife Jo has lost the love of her life, his sons Mark and Greg and daughter Paula have lost their hero, Merideth, Jennifer and Nick have lost their loving father-in-law, and his seven grandchildren have lost his beaming smile every time he saw them.
"Mick gave his all for his family, making it a point to have dinner most every night at home when his kids were young and never miss one of their games. During Mark and Greg's Ottawa Hills football games, he would march up and down the sidelines cheering them on. While watching Paula win two state championships and become a high school All-American as part of the Ottawa Hills field hockey team, his booming voice could be heard yelling "shoot the ball" even if the Green Bears were forty yards from the goal.
"He also drove countless hours to watch his sons' hockey games, never missing an opportunity to have a good time on a road trip. Simply put, he enjoyed every moment watching his kids play. As they got older, Mick would drive up to 14 hours to watch his kids continue to play sports at Providence College, Boston University, and Georgetown University. He would later have that same passion for the activities of each of his seven grandchildren," the obituary said.
Wagoner was involved in his community, serving several years as president of the Ottawa Hills Booster Club and the Ottawa Hills Youth Soccer Association.
The Ohio State High School Athletic Association later awarded Wagoner its very first statewide Outstanding Contributor Award for his efforts to assist high school sports.
"He was known as "Mr. Wags" throughout Ottawa Hills and was a vocal cheerleader for all of his kids' friends. He would root for the player that didn't see much playing time as much as he would for his own family member. He would scour the sports pages looking for the successes of his friends' children and take great joy in them. Throughout his life, Mick reveled in the success of others more than he did his own," the obituary said.
"After his kids had graduated form Ottawa Hills, he finally realized his dream of being a football head coach (and implementing the single-wing offense) when he coached the Ottawa Hills Junior High Football Team to several successful seasons, including winning a few TAAC League Championships. His impact was so great on these twelve and thirteen year old boys that they later invited Coach Wags to be the speaker at their High School football banquet," the obituary said.
He joined his son, Mark, in his successful campaigns for the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.
That initial political involvement later led to Wagoner's own election to the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee, where he represented Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Erie and Fulton counties in the Ohio GOP.
"Not surprisingly, Mick was not caught up in titles or offices, but instead referred to all elected officials – including governors, senators, justices, and congressman – simply by their first name and rooted for their success just like he did for his kids' friends. He also served for a few years on the Lucas County Board of Elections where – like in his law practice – he used his judgment, perspective, and humor to help guide the Board of Elections through its most challenging time," the obituary said.
"He met the great love of his life – Jo Wagoner – about halfway through his journey. They were inseparable and one of the great love stories. In his later years, Mick was his happiest walking their beloved dog, Ozzie and just being with Jo. They laughed continually and loved each other unconditionally.
"Mick leaves us with an amazing legacy of funny "Mickisms" (many of which shouldn't be repeated in polite company) and a family that loves each other as much as he loved them," the obituary said.
He is survived by his wife Helen Ann "Jo" Wagoner; his son Mark D. Wagoner, Jr. and wife Merideth and their children Mark D. Wagoner, III (aptly nicknamed Mickey) and Taylor of Ottawa Hills, Ohio; his son Gregory H. Wagoner and wife Jennifer and their children Hugh, Lucy, and Fitz of Ottawa Hills, Ohio; and his daughter Paula Conway and husband Nick and their children Lola and Ted of LaJolla, Calif.
"In typical Mick Wagoner fashion, his final request was to go out with a party. So, when things return to normal the Wagoners will host another of the famous "Wagoner s###bangs" sometime this summer (and we may invite the Ottawa Hills police to break it up again for old time sake)," the obituary said.
The family will conduct a private service for immediate family in the next two weeks. The family requests that contributions in Wagoner's honor be made to the Mick Wagoner Athletic Fund at the Ottawa Hills School Foundation and mailed to 3600 Indian Road, Ottawa Hills, Ohio 43606.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Walker Funeral Homes.