Bob Wagner’s Journey to Early Retirement

By Sue Moore 

For Bobby Wagner, a guy who has five million frequent flyer miles on American Air and one million on United, you might say he gets around a lot. Now that he is retired, he still enjoys the travel, especially with his wife, the former Deb Northrup, both graduates of Vicksburg High School Class of 1978.

But 9/11 screwed up a good thing in air travel, he laments, as he remembers fondly just getting on a plane almost the minute it was set to take off. “I’ve been so many places and only seen the business office and the airplane and Deb didn’t get to go. Now we can see all the places I missed together,” as he took early retirement at the age of 50. “Hanging around with Deb is the greatest thing about retirement,” he says.

Bobby Wagner has degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California/Berkley, which he earned while an employee of General Electric for five years. He worked in design of nuclear reactors as a project manager and noticed guys walking around in suits and wanted that kind of job he says. So, he moved to Applied Materials, a company that makes the machines that make the chips to sell to manufacturers such as Intel.

After five years at this company he became employee #50 at a start-up called Novellus Systems, Inc. They had a different concept for the time in the process of making wafers which promised better quality in computer chips. For the next 22 years, from 1987 to 2009, he moved from being a salesman to vice president of customer satisfaction, vice president of operations in Japan for two years, and finally vice president of sales in North America.

“I majored in ‘Bobby Wagner’,” says wife Deb as she reviews her years at Michigan State while spending each weekend in Ann Arbor. They had dated while in high school so this was a natural extension of their affection. When they arrived in California she held a series of jobs but really wanted to stay home with their three daughters, who are now out on their own in the work world. Allie works for a start-up called Bright Edge in Mountainview, CA; Jennifer is at CNBC; and Lindsey is in sales at Linked In.

David and Diane – bookends of the family

Following in his father Don’s footsteps, David went to work at Miller-Davis Construction Co. just after high school, beginning as a union ironworker, then went to work for Austin Co. for the rest of his career as a foreman and retired as superintendent at the age of 55. He married Connie Jones, a VHS graduate in 1970 who attended the University of Michigan and came back to her home town to teach social studies at VHS for many years. They are raising all of their own food and live on a property on 30th street, south of Vicksburg. They have a son David II., who is a sheriff’s deputy in Kalkaska County; and a grandson David, III affectionately called Tripp. They also have a daughter Katie who is married and lives in the Kalkaska area.

Diane is an RN at Borgess Hospital doing special procedures in radiology. She lives with husband Steve Hunt who owns a concrete company and is a 1976 VHS grad. They farm in East Leroy and raise breed goats. They have three offspring and one granddaughter.

As all the cousins were growing up they would get together each 4th of July and Christmas back in Michigan. “They thought it was a big party for a week and that everyone in Vicksburg and Schoolcraft lived like this all the time,” Deb commented. “It’s the tradition that we all

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