For more than a half-century, local philanthropist Eulalie Merrill Wagner devoted much of her life to the development of the gardens at Lakewold, the Wagner family's 10-acre residential estate along the shores of Gravelly Lake, 10 miles south of Tacoma.
Three years ago, Mrs. Wagner decided to donate her horticultural treasure to the Friends of Lakewold Foundation for public tours and community programs.
About the same time, an endowment in nursing education at Tacoma General Hospital was established by her sizable contribution.
Mrs. Wagner, 86, died last Tuesday (April 9) at her Lakewold home. A funeral was conducted Saturday at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in the Tacoma suburb of Lakewood.
Mrs. Wagner and her late husband, lumberman G. Corydon Wagner, acquired Lakewold in 1938 from his uncle, Maj. Everett Griggs.
Both Mrs. Wagner and her husband, who died in 1979, had family ties to the Northwest timber industry - on his side the St. Paul & Tacoma Lumber Co. established in 1889 on the Tacoma Tideflats, and on her side the Merrill & Ring partnerships with timber holdings along the Olympic Peninsula and southern coastal British Columbia.
Mrs. Wagner's family ties also extended to Merrill Place, a commercial building in Pioneer Square; Merrill House, the Capitol Hill residence for decades used for charitable events, and R.D. Merrill Hall, the University of Washington's urban horticultural center. (The Merrill name also is on the Opera House's Green Room and the Maritime Wing of Seattle's Museum of History and Industry.)
Born in Seattle, Mrs. Wagner attended the private St. Nicholas School and the Masters School at Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
She was a Northwest champion golfer in the 1930s, but later turned her attention to gardening after acquiring Lakewold, said her son, G. Corydon Wagner III of Tacoma.
Her community and cultural involvements were numerous, he said.
She was a past president of the Tacoma Junior League, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Aloha Club and the Tacoma Garden Club, an affiliate of the Garden Club of America.
She was a past director of the Seattle Art Museum, and served 15 years on the board of the Garden Club of America. She also was an honorary member of the Seattle Garden Club, and was the recipient of numerous gardening awards.
Mrs. Wagner was a founder of the Rhododendron Species Foundation in Tacoma and was a longtime supporter of the University of Washington Arboretum.
The Native Garden in Tacoma's Point Defiance Park was one of her projects, her son said. "Her other community commitments and contributions ranged widely from the arts to health and education," he said.
"She was typically modest yet proud of the Wagner Endowment for Nursing Education at Tacoma General Hospital."
Besides her son, she is survived by two daughters, Wendy Weyerhaeuser, Tacoma, and Merrill Ryman, New York City; 12 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.