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William H. “Bill” Wanger

Dec 26, 2014

William H. “Bill” Wanger, M.D., of Alna, Maine, died Sunday morning, Dec. 14, at the age of 79.

Dr. Wanger was born in 1935 in Baltimore, Maryland, the eldest son of two physicians, Dr. Halvard “Hal” Wanger and Dr. Sarah Elizabeth “Betty” McFetridge, who operated a small-town medical practice out of their home office in Shepherdstow. He enjoyed a childhood spent between the home in Shepherdstown and the family farm in Ohio, where he spent many cherished years with his beloved aunt, Mary Reid Wilson. He attended Muskingum College and Shepherd College before receiving his medical training at West Virginia University and Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

A lifelong adventurer, Bill and his father became accomplished spelunkers in the caves of the Appalachian region. As members of the National Speleological Society, they were party to the expedition that mapped Floyd Collins’ Crystal Cave. A teenaged Bill Wanger is featured on the cover of The Caves Beyond, a book that catalogues the Crystal Cave expedition.

Although a tall man, Bill’s early experience in the caves of West Virginia made him a fine candidate for the United States Navy’s highly selective nuclear submarine program. He was active for six years serving as physician aboard the U.S.S. Thomas Jefferson and was at sea under the Arctic Circle when President Kennedy was assassinated. He continued to serve in the Naval Reserves and retired with the rank of captain. Additional experiences in the Navy included training in deep sea diving, wilderness survival, and combat casualty care.

Dr. Wanger entered private medical practice in Martinsburg, followed by a career in emergency medicine. He served as the school physician at Shepherd College, on the faculty of the West Virginia University School of Medicine, as coordinator of emergency services for the state of West Virginia, and as an officer in state medical associations.

In Maine, Dr. Wanger served as the emergency department director for Rumford Community Hospital and later as a physician at the Veterans’ Administration hospital in Togus. He also served as the school physician at Hebron Academy. He retired to his home in the small town of Alna.

Bill was a licensed pilot and an enthusiastic early adopter of technology. He was a passionate woodworker who loved to hone his craft and work on projects for his family. He was an intrepid outdoor enthusiast and loved the natural beauty of the world around him. He particularly loved cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and was an accomplished hiker and climber who completed several winter summits of Mount Washington. In 1954, he participated in an eight-day hike of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath with Chief Justice William O. Douglas. It was this walk that inspired Douglas’s outspoken advocacy for the preservation of the “C & O Canal.” In recent years, Bill and his wife especially enjoyed their annual cross-country road trips where they visited family and friends along the way.

He was a great storyteller, a lover of language, and a voracious and varied reader. His personal library ranged from his many well-highlighted medical texts to current nonfiction, literature, history, and books on nature. Poetry and music were part of his daily life and he could pull from memory the right verse or song for any occasion. He especially loved the bluegrass music of his native West Virginia and the songs of John Denver. Most recently, he sang bass for the Water of Life Lutheran Church choir in Newcastle.

He took great pride in the work he did on his home and he cultivated a beautifully landscaped yard and a wonderful vegetable garden with his wife.

Bill is survived by his beloved wife, Joyce; his brother, Alex Wanger, M.D. and sister-in-law, Linda, of Shepherdstown; his sister, Mary Martha Selove, of Chantilly, Virginia; his six children and step-children, Laura Hale, Beth Yates, R.N., Tula Mason, R.N., Brita Wanger, Lara Schmidt, Ph.D., and David Schmidt, M.D.; and their spouses, Bret Hale, Joe Yates, Doug Morier, Ph.D., Tony Occhi, and Heather Scott, M.D.; grandchildren Lt. Bret Hale Jr. (U.S.A.F.), Sarah Hale, Samantha Yates, Sydney Yates, Richard Yates, Alex Yates, Brandon Mason, Alice Morier, Alex Occhi, Katie Schmidt, Emma Schmidt and Michael Schmidt; and great-grandchildren, Gemma Hale, Sophia Mason, and Madison Mason.

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Water of Life Lutheran Church in Newcastle, Maine.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Refuge International (refugeinternational. com), a non-profit organization that provides clean water and health care in rural Guatemala, to the Alna Volunteer Fire Department, or to the Water of Life Lutheran Church.

Arrangements are under the direction and care of the Strong-Hancock Funeral Home, 612 Main Street, Damariscotta, Maine.

Condolences, and messages for the family, may be expressed by visiting: www.StrongHancock.com.