Wagnild, Bernard Edward “Bernie”

Bernie Wagnild, 83, passed away on December 25 due to complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s more than 20 years ago and lived a remarkably active and long life, despite the progressive nature of the disease. He was preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Margaret (Tarmann) Wagnild. 

Bernie was born on August 25, 1939, grew up in south Minneapolis, Minn., and graduated from Vocational High School in 1956. While at Vocational, he concentrated on auto mechanics and followed that with a year at Dunwoody Institute. After completing his education, he would spend the rest of his working life in the automotive industry. His career began in 1957 working as a parts runner for Darling Oldsmobile in St. Paul, Minn., and finished as principal partner and president of Valley Automotive Group, which includes four General Motors dealerships. Bernie was a member of the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association (MADA) beginning in 1975 until his death. He served on the MADA board of directors and held officer positions as both its secretary and president. During the 1980s, Bernie was selected to sit on the National Dealer Council of Chevrolet Motor Division, an honor that made him very proud. 

In 1958 Bernie met his one and only love, Janet Honebrink, and after dating for nine months, they were married on April 4, 1959. Their short courtship belies the endurance of their love and marriage, which lasted more than 63 years. They enjoyed an active social life with a wide network of friends and coworkers and travelled extensively. Over the years they lived in River Falls, Wis.; Winona; Burnsville; Minneapolis; and Lakeville. They also have a home in Palm Desert, Calif., a place Bernie loved dearly. 

Bernie’s civic and philanthropic endeavors were extensive. In Winona, he was a member of the Port Authority and served as its president from 1982-1988. During that time, he also began a long tenure as a member of the St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees, ultimately serving as its chair from 1997-1999. Other significant positions he held include being a member and chair of the Ebenezer Society Board of Directors, member and chair of the Fairview (Hospital/Clinic) Foundation Board of Directors and member of the Board of Directors of the Marshfield Clinic. He was honored by St. Mary’s University with a Doctor of Philanthropy and Leadership - Honorius Causa, and by B’nai B’rith International with the Distinguished Humanitarian Award. 

Bernie and Jan were members of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville while living there from 1968-1975 and rejoined that congregation upon moving to Minneapolis from Winona in 1989. Bernie served two terms as congregational president, first in 1973-1974 and then again in 1992-1993 and also was a past member and chair of the Prince of Peace Foundation. 

He is survived by his wife, Janet; their three children, Dawn (Jim) Jacoby, of Chicago, Scott (Kathy), of Fergus Falls, Dean (Shannon), of Lakeville; grandchildren, Klara (Andy) Beck, Elayna (Tyler) Leonard, Carolina Wagnild, Georgia Wagnild, Leah Wagnild and Dean Wagnild Jr.; great-grandsons, Calvin Beck and Owen Leonard; brothers, Jerry, Galen and Bill; and sister, Mary Fraser; a large extended family; and many, many friends. Our family would also like to recognize special caregivers Paul Blom, Joshua Polanski and Shannon Regan, and personal trainer Dan Rabischko. Without their dedicated care, Bernie’s final years would have been much less active and meaningful. 

A celebration of life will be held at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville on January 31; visitation at 9:30 a.m. and memorial service to follow at 11 a.m. 

Memorials are preferred to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, St Mary’s University of Minnesota or the Michael J. Fox Foundation.