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Councilwoman's joyful energy raised quality of life

| Monday, March 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Christine Wagner's personality was magnetic.

“She could walk into a room, and everybody would be glad because everybody just wanted to see what she had to say,” her daughter, Katherine “Kate” McCombie said. “She had that ability to truly smile and light up a room where people just wanted to be around her.”

Christine F. “Chris” Wagner, 59, of Connellsville, a former city councilwoman, died Friday, March 1, 2013, in Mt. St. Macrina, Uniontown.

Mrs. Wagner, a Connellsville native, dedicated much of her time to making the town and Fayette County a better place to live.

For a time, Mrs. Wagner operated the Chris Wagner School of Dance in Connellsville, where she imparted her love of dance to her students, including her four children.

“I will never forget sitting against the wall watching her practice her solo piece to ‘Mr. Bojangles,'” McCombie said.

Her love of dance and theater led her to serve for eight years as executive director for the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Uniontown. Her post there came in between stints as executive director of The Greater Connellsville Chamber of Commerce.

“She was a go-getter,” said Nancy Henry of Connellsville, a former Chamber president who knew Mrs. Wagner for about 25 years. “She had a magnetic personality. People loved to be around her. She was just full of energy.”

“She loved her family and she loved Connellsville, and it's a great loss for all of us.”

Mrs. Wagner served on city council from 2002 to 2006. She worked to allocate funding to start a restoration project that would become the Edwin S. Porter Theater.

“She was somebody that rolled up sleeves to get something done,” Connellsville Councilman Brad Geyer said. “It wasn't, ‘Let's talk about this,' it was, ‘What do we have to do next?' and that's why she accomplished so much.”

McCombie said her mother saw potential in Connellsville and worked hard to organize activities such as free movies in the park.

“When we look around and we can see things that she did, it's very touching,” McCombie said. “For somebody that had so much life and loved life and loved experiencing life, it was extremely disheartening to see it cut so short, because she had so much more to give.”

In addition to McCombie, Mrs. Wagner is survived by her parents, John and Patricia Hyatt Cavalier; her husband, Fayette County President Judge John F. Wagner Jr.; daughters Diana Lowry of Connellsville and Courtney A. Wagner of Connellsville, currently in Boston; son John F. Wagner III of Connellsville; four sisters, Angela Batok of Wilkes-Barre, Michelle Stebell of Erie, Melissa Topper of Connellsville and Jacqueline Cavalier of Pittsburgh; a brother, John Cavalier of Irwin; and three grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday and 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in Vito C. Martucci Funeral Home, 123 S. First St. West Side, Connellsville. A blessing service will be at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday in the funeral home, followed by a Mass at 11 a.m. in St. Rita Roman Catholic Church. Interment will be in St. Rita Cemetery.

The family asks that memorials be in the form of donations to Yough River Trail Council, The State Theatre Centre for the Arts or Mt. Macrina Manor.

Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or jreeger@tribweb.com.

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