Monday, September 8, 2014

Life and Death: Charles ("Chad") Wagamon Jr. Obituary

A couple of weeks ago I was awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a phone call that by the caller ID I could see was from a familiar name and number. That is almost never good.

The content of the phone call is included in the following, written by my mother-in-law for this last weekend's church bulletin.              
St.Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church
1603 Avenue N • Huntsville,Texas 
Saturday Ordinary Time 6 September 2014

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Dear Networkers, 
    All summer 2014 plans were shaping up for my husband’s 90th birthday surprise party—a stag party because, at 90, he had outlived his peer friends and here was an opportunity to enjoy a gang of “just guys,” with our jokester friend Clarence Hightower keeping things lively as master of ceremonies. By Tuesday, August 26, all was ready, except giving a final guest count to the restaurant the next day and the day after that—PARTY DAY—picking up the birthday cake and decorating the tables to carry out a “hats” theme…when, in the dark before dawn, our phone rang bringing unthinkable news.

   An hour later our son Jack, daughter Christina (Tina), and I had concluded we must reveal the surprise and let Doc decide whether to go forward or quickly shift into reverse, cancelling reservations, seeking refunds, calling all guests. Doc’s decision: Go forward.

    Unknown to Clarence Hightower, his “emcee-ing” the party got us through. All went off as planned—in fact, more than as planned: At the end, he handed Doc a framed poem, composed by one of our granddaughters, containing the surprise news that Doc, for the first time, will become a great-grandfather come February. It was the best of times!

    And … it was the worst of times. That phone call two days before was from another granddaughter with the chilling news that her father, our oldest child “Chad” had died in his sleep, apparently from an epileptic seizure, in his Taichung, Taiwan, apartment, and she was flying out immediately.

   At five years old, Chad had received a hard blow to the head from a neighbor boy wielding a heavy pistol. A few days later, a severe seizure put our little boy on medication. The next year two more seizures followed, then ceased. After five years, medication ended and no further symptoms occurred until… in mid-life, infrequent seizures returned.
The Odessa American, April 8, 1960

    This summer, Chad had been working extremely hard. Orals for his doctorate were coming up this week, adding to his usual overfilled schedule of teaching, translating, tutoring, researching, and publishing. He was last seen entering his apartment in the early hours of Sunday morning August 24. On Tuesday when he did not arrive to teach his class, one of the university staff led police to his apartment and found him lifeless.

   The memorial service for Charles Holland Wagamon, Jr., 64, took place Sunday, August 31, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Taichung, Taiwan. I phoned Fr. Norbert Pacheco, an American Maryknoll Missionary based in Taiwan for over 35 years, and he said, on short notice, people came—from Chad’s church (Shui-Nan Catholic Church), the medical community where Chad tutored Chinese doctors in English, and the university where he taught—not out of any sense of duty but (quote) “in deep remembrance of the impression Chad made on their lives.” Father also remarked ”Many companies in the city do shoddy translations. Chad’s translations were sought. People could see his were top quality.”
   Few in Huntsville knew Chad because our move here August 31, 1968, coincided with Chad’s going off to college. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, with a major in Economics and a minor in Chinese, and not long after, went to Taiwan to continue studies. He traveled extensively, doing all manner of jobs along the way. He witnessed the Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing and at one point met Mother Teresa in Calcutta. In the late 1990s he taught a year in interior China and another year in Russia. But Taiwan became his base…and a bright, talented young Chinese woman who worked with him on translations became his wife.
   Chad authored multiple textbooks for teaching English as a second language, at least five still currently in print. In April 2012 he filmed the final episode of his educational television program, which had been on the air six years, to continue through 2013 before going into reruns. He translated a full gamut of materials, including bio-medical translations.
   But Chad’s goal of getting a Ph.D. eluded him, snatched away in his final moments. Beginning at Michigan State University, he had settled for a second Masters Degree (his first M.A., from the University of Washington in Seattle). More recently, he re-located in Hawaii, to devote a full year to completing the doctorate at the University of Hawaii, but that ended in disappointment, as well. Finally, back in Taiwan, he finished his doctoral work and was scheduled for oral exams this very week, when the unthinkable happened. However, we have gratefully learned that his wife and daughter were notified right away that the university is awarding Chad a Ph.D. posthumously.
   Doc and I are also grateful that Chad returned to his Catholic Faith, after falling away as a young collegian for seventeen years. At his funeral Shui-Nan Church parishioners told Fr. Pacheco that Chad went to confession monthly. Chad also studied scripture. In my 1997 visit to Taiwan, he had Bibles in three languages—Korean, Chinese, and English—placed side-by-side comparing texts as he read, just out of his own interest.
   The Bible teaches us to use our gifts and talents to the fullest, to bear our sufferings and disappointments stoically, and to follow the paths of righteousness all the days of our lives. Our eldest child certainly fulfilled all those commands. I pray that Mary is cradling him in her arms, welcoming him into heaven at this moment. Please pray with me for the repose of our son Chad’s soul.

Marion Wagamon, editor

Parish Network


Charles Wagamon, Jr., 1950-2014

I never had the pleasure of meeting Chad Wagamon. I do know his daughter. She is as thoughtful, smart, pretty, hard working and responsible as any young women I've ever met. Our deepest condolences go out especially to her, her mother and her grandparents. May Charles Wagamon, Jr. rest in peace. God bless them all.

Note: Chad's obituary in the Huntsville Item.

Note: Baby McKenna JoAnn was born on January 1, 2015, 6 weeks early, weighing 4 pounds, 6 ounces. Baby is receiving special care at what providently is the hospital where mom is employed. All are doing well.


  1. Clearly he blessed so many lives. My prayers are with all his family, and especially his mother and dad. The love of parents for their child is like no other.