First Officer Ray Wagner


Pennington, New Jersey – Age 52

U.S. Citizen

Raymond Ronald Wagner, “Ray” was a former fighter pilot in Vietnam, and the co-pilot of “Clipper Maid of the Seas.” He was involved both in his local community and in the community that is Pan Am’s world. He volunteered strafing the 4th of July parade in his town and he generously gave his time to serve as a soccer coach and devoted all of his land for the local Junior Soccer League kids to practice their game. He was the president, manager, and counselor at the Penn Brook Swim Club where he was a swimming and diving coach, working with his two daughters, both Olympic-caliber divers. Ray was also actively involved in supporting an orphanage in Brazil and very involved with the Presbyterian Church. The family’s former minister, the Rev. Walter Coats, described Wagner as ”a very serious person . . . a natural leader” who was active in the Presbyterian Church and had managed a local swim club for several years. “If I could choose a pilot for a plane I was in, I would have chosen Ray Wagner,” said Coats. When he wasn’t in the Pan Am cockpit, he could often be found flying helicopters and jet fighters in the New Jersey National Guard. He was also a member of the Airline Pilots Association. Ray had an interest in Volkswagen Beatles and owned 30 of them at one time. His wife Norma had a red Honda as a surprise Christmas gift for him. Ray joined Pan Am in 1966 and is survived by his wife Norma, his daughters Jenni and Carol, and his son Raymond Jr.

3 thoughts on “

First Officer Ray Wagner

  1. So long ago it seems like yesterday that Mr Wagner’s daughter Jennifer called our house to inform us that her dad was on board that plane. Im getting a lump in my throat as I write this comment. I wasnt aware of his awesome life until I read this webpage. All I want to say is how much we cared and admired all the Wagners. After all this time we still remember. I still drive past their old house in Pennington and smile. We love you.

  2. All it took was a Go Penn Brook for a handful of Starbursts to sail your way. He loved me as my diving coach, and I part loved and part feared him and his constant call of POINT YOUR DAMN TOES. He and Norma frequented our home, and there was always something so dear in his otherwise stern ways.

    I learned of Mr. Wagner’s death unknowingly. I’ll never forget (in hindsight) laying on the couch, thinking about Christmas and my recent birthday and all the stuff freshly minted 14 year olds think about, hearing about the crash on the nightly news. My Mom, who considered Ray as a replacement father, was writing thank you notes to her students on a TV tray—-went pale as a ghost. I recall vaguely asking her if she was ok and she stuttered that she was, and I went back into my own little world. She wasn’t going to tell me what she suspected until she knew for sure. I learned that he had indeed perished in school the next morning, and I had to go home because I was unable to function in my grief.

    I remember the Harkness family! We all lost someone amazing that day, but we were so amazingly lucky to have had him guide us. All these years later, I still cherish him.

  3. Mr. Wagner was simply larger than life. As a kid I mostly knew him because he managed the Penn Brook Swim Club and was the inspiration of all of my siblings (5 kids…). He was tough, reliable and solid; a real leader among men and the community. On Memorial Day each year he ripped an F-105 ThunderChief “THUD,” (and I think an F-4 Phantom later on) down Main Street above the parade, back in the 70s when Pennington, NJ was proudly patriotic and certainly not as soft. The excitement of this annual event was tangible and evident by the screaming women and children who waited in obvious anticipation each year…I was too young to comprehend or understand his personal achievement(s) to have made this possible. As the years passed and his influence was clearly apparent on my sisters and oldest brother at the swim club (all lifeguards and eventually a pool manager) I eventually worked for him to open the pool every year. A close friend and I sucked down more muriatic acid fumes in order to kill every microbe that grew on the pool interior walls in the off season…we all worked in the deep end (13 feet) as the acid visibly smoked; no respirator, no paper mask…hold your breath, suck it in and get the job done kid – no complaining. When I was a high schooler Mr. Wagner visited our class on career day in his Pan Am captain uniform and I knew I wanted to be an aviator from that day forward. Within a year I got a job at the Mercer County Airport (TTN) washing airplanes. I earned my private pilot’s license and tried to emulate his example going forward. I joined the USAF AFROTC and earned a “pilot’s slot” for future USAF pilot training (Berlin Wall fell right before my 2d Lt. commission which adjusted my military career). I will never forget my brother calling me and telling me, while on duty as a ground linesman at TTN on December 21, 1988, that Mr. Wagner was most likely piloting a plane that crashed in Scotland that night…it was surreal. Since then, and with much life experience in the rear view, I still admire what he stood for; a true American hero that never forgot his small town roots.

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