Gentleman Bob Waggener turns 90
For more than 67 years Shirley Waggener has shared a home with a kid who always wanted to fly. A kid from Casper, Wyoming who grew up on a farm but had a higher calling than bucking hay bales and slopping hogs.
“ I met Bob at college in Laramie”, Shirley gleamed. “We actually met at a dance," she added. “It was a blind date,” according to daughter Robin but Bob was not blind to love at first sight.
Bob Waggener, lean and rugged from those farm days in the 30’s, must have been quite a dancer too. You could say he swept her off her feet.
The war was winding down by 1944. Bob was not allowed to sign up in 1941 being only 18. The war department changed the rules late in the war so Bob and some friends headed down to the enlistment office of the Army-Air Corp. Not much time later he would head to flight school in Texas and Oklahoma.
The demand for pilots was strong at the time so flight school was quick. Bob was off to Italy to fly over the Po Valley about 100 miles southeast of Milan. It took a lot of courage to fly his A-20 and later A-26 through the valley looking for enemy transports on wheels or tracks. He’d strafe and bomb as instructed in his “double cognac” plane while dodging ack-ack guns tossing flak into his path. Never shot down but certainly threatened, Bob escaped serious injury, becoming a Senior Lieutenant prior to mustering out after the war. “ His biggest trouble might have been that the McDonald-Douglas A-26 “leaked” at higher altitudes and not from enemy bullets. All pilots endured tough flying conditions during the war with unheated, thin-skinned aircraft and very little in the way of accommodations. “it was cramped in there” Bob grinned. To top it off there was no aisle service. If you wanted a snack, you had to bring your own lunch bucket and don’t even think about a potty. Bob did not say more on that subject. The War was over. He returned home and headed for Laramie to attend the University of Wyoming. He finished college. Married to Shirley and eager for work, he headed north.
Boeing was hiring. He landed a job in the tool and die department. He needed a place to settle down to raise his family. Max Borgeson, of White Center car dealer fame, owned some property near Miller Creek. Bob learned it was for sale. Some folks wanted to build a few homes on the property but Max was against that idea. He opted to sell 5 acres to Bob and Shirley instead. It wasn’t long before Bob built his first home for Shirley and baby Cheryl in 1952.
Bob has always been a hands-on guy. One afternoon he complained that the manager of his unit at Boeing was not making the tools efficiently.. that he had a better way. Boeing prided itself on making their own high quality tools. Bob knew this. A day later he was in charge of his own section, eventually becoming tool manager for all the tool and die makers. For nearly 40 years he worked on the B-52’s, 707’s and 747’s among others while earning an MBA from the University of Washington to boot.
The halcyon days of the 50‘s saw the family grow to include Deana, Robbie and Chuck. If kindness was candy it would be the sweetness Bob and Shirley’s extended to include another “daughter” Linda, who is still a close family friend.
Gentleman Bob Waggener turns 90 this month and still looks like he could grip a skill saw or pound a nail. He’d go back to Boeing to give them some advice on how to run the tool and die department but there is a dance coming up and he would not want to miss the chance for one more waltz with Shirley.