Dona S. Wagner

Dona S. Wagner (née Dona Jean) passed away in her sleep on April 4, 2021 in Alexandria, MN, the town where she was born 94 years earlier on June 11 to Joe and Irma Syvrud. She filled the years in between with love, family, lasting friendships, a teaching career, many travel adventures and a joyful, caring presence that warmed everyone who knew her.

While still in high school she met the love of her life Louis (Louie) Wagner, a young Navy pilot attending flight school in Alex. She credited him with tutoring her to a passing grade in physics thereby winning the approval of her dad.

After two years at the U of M, Dona left to marry Louie in the fall of 1946. They began a 61-year partnership that took them from Minneapolis to Cleveland to Minnetonka to Bad Homburg, Germany to Atlanta and finally back to Alexandria where they split their time between a lake home they built themselves and a winter home in Arizona

Along the way their daughter Sally and son Louis were born. Having lost her own mother at a very early age, Dona’s approach to motherhood was all her own. Her dad Joe had instilled in her a sense a humor and an adventurous nature. This she combined with her own creative spirit and Norwegian pragmatism to make the Wagner household an epicenter of fun. There were impromptu dog shows in the front yard, a dance show in the garage, spook houses in the back hall and model missile launches on the front lawn. She served as Girl Scout troop leader for many years. Her time as a docent at The Minneapolis Art Institute helped her make the museums the family visited during their year in Germany come to life.

She returned to the U of M in her 30s to finish her degree in education and taught 8th grade English for several years. She delighted in her family, her career and her many interests which included music, art, theater, reading, exotic foods and especially travel.

Louie’s passing in 2007 left an enormous hole in her heart, but she found solace in her children, grandchildren and her many friends. She was delighted to welcome her first great grandchild this past December.

Dona was preceded in death by her husband Louie, parents Irma and Joe, stepmother Rhoda and brother Joe. She is survived by stepbrothers Daniel and George, daughter Sally (Kent Severson), son Lou (Linda), and grandchildren Adam, Jon (Keela), David (Tamra) and great granddaughter Remi-Marie.

A private family service will be livestreamed at on April 20, 2021 at 1:00 pm, with a celebration of life later this summer at a yet-to-be-determined date.

Dona would be grateful if memorials were directed to The Louis R. & Dona S. Wagner Scholarship in the College of Education (fund #8686) at this address: University of Minnesota Foundation, 200 Oak Street SE, Suite 500, Mpls, MN 55455 or online at:

Related Topics: OBITS