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The Wagner Family Tree

Editor’s Note: This is a series of stories about Vicksburg High School graduates and some of the interesting jobs they now perform in the outside world. 

By Sue Moore

There’s David, Bob, Mary and Diane Wagner, Vicksburg High School graduates from 1971,‘73,‘76 and ‘78 respectively, the offspring of Don and Betsy Wagner, who have made a name for themselves both far away and close to home.

This is a story about the two who left home to follow their star while David and Diane did the job locally.

Mary Wagner Rafferty spent her summers as a teenager life-guarding at the beach on Sunset Lake and as the activities director for South County Community Services. A degree from Michigan State University in therapeutic education returned her talents to the community center in Vicksburg where she met and married Rick Rafferty from Schoolcraft.

That might be the end of story, in truth, it was just the beginning. Rick landed a job after graduation from the College of the Ozarks where he had a full-ride tennis and academic scholarship, teaching middle school in Cincinnati, OH. Mary joined Rick six months later and went to work as director of volunteer services at St. Luke’s hospital in Fort Thomas, KY. She bounced around from Good Samaritan hospital in Cincinnati and St. Luke’s, where she found herself in development, which is a euphemism for raising money – Big Money! She first became director of Planned Giving, then vice president of the Foundation and COO and now serves as president/CEO of Good Samaritan’s Foundation, a part of Catholic Health Initiatives out of Denver, CO.

She found out she was good at development and started traveling the U.S. giving speeches and talking to potential donors. “Good Sam”, as it is called, is a large research and teaching hospital (over 600 beds) with capital needs each year which can exceed $40 million, she says.

“My job is to give people an opportunity to do something that could make a difference in someone’s life. The free health center for the working poor is what I am most proud of,” she states. “It’s staffed by volunteer physicians and nurses, all run by philanthropic dollars that our planned giving program raises. The clinic costs about $800,000 a year to run and is a special thing to be a part of in every way. It is part of something that is bigger than yourself.”

She credits her investment team where she believes you make big investments in good people to give them flexibility to keep them on board. Her at home team consists of husband Rick, who devoted himself to raising daughter Dianna while Mary was traveling and working. Also, Mary had to deal with a diagnoses of orthostatic tremors, a rare neurological disease when she was in her forties. It hits her upon standing up where her legs are really heavy and she just can’t stand. There is no treatment known for it and it is considered non-life threatening. “I’m good at covering it up and I have a trainer who helps me with a lot of core strengthening so the disease is manageable.” Daughter Dianna was chosen for the cheerleading squad at the University of Tennessee and now has returned to the University of Cincinnati in athlete sales development. It seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Mary notes.

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