This is our favorite photo of Florence Wager, doing two things she always did best: playing in a park … and smiling.The message in the sparkling smile was always the same: “Look what we did! Isn’t this fun?”
Wager’s smile is only a memory now. On Wednesday, the beloved civic leader died at her home at age 84. But her gifts are numerous and everlasting. Dozens of local parks have Wager’s footprints, if not literally then figuratively after she tirelessly promoted parks. From Esther Short Park in Vancouver (Wager chaired the community design committee) to the successful 2005 ballot measure that created the Metropolitan Parks District for unincorporated areas, Flossie’s smile was as constant as her advocacy.
Flossie applied her persuasive skills in other areas: the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, the Vancouver Symphony and YWCA Clark County. But she was best known as our community’s de facto First Lady of Parks. The Clark County Parks Foundation inaugurated the Florence B. Wager Award in 2011 s. As we editorialized last year, “to grasp a statuette with your name beneath Wager’s is no small honor in this county.” And her support of parks was largely why, in 2009, she was named Clark County’s First Citizen by the Community Foundation.
Long before the term “BFF” emerged, local parks officials knew Flossie was their strongest ally. As reported in Thursday’s Columbian, former Parks Director David Judd said in 2009: “In 30 years of public service, I’ve never seen anyone like her. To put in that much time and intellect and devotion.”
Another former parks director, Larry Smith, wrote in an online comment: “What a class act and natural treasure for our community and city. Powerful advocate of kids and their development.”
But throughout her labors of love, it was never about Flossie. These Florence Wager quotes from our archives help explain what we’re talking about:
“The riches you brought to my life are unbelievable. I can’t accept (First Citizen Award) without you. We’ve had great success just because we are a team.”
“Volunteering means so much to me. You meet people who are bright, creative and innovative. It’s like enlarging my family. I don’t intend to quit.”
“I love Halloween. (Wager handed out healthy snacks to trick-or-treaters.) I just want kids to learn they can choose something other than candy.”
Florence Wager loved more than just Halloween. Her love will be returned by her community for many years. Next time you’re frustrated about your community, visit a park. Climb onto a rocking horse that’s too small for you. Sway vigorously.
Then smile … and thank Flossie.