By Lauren Burgess
When Chuck Wagner met his wife Lorraine in Hawaii during the late ‘60s at a Hilton hotel bar, they instantly clicked. Barely six months later, the two married at the church just down the street from Wagner’s childhood home.
In May of 2018, Lorraine lost her battle with achalasia, a rare disorder that slowly closes off the esophagus, and passed away at the age of 73.
According to Wagner, there never spent a day apart, even after almost 49 years of marriage.
He, along with their son Steve and daughter Laura, set out on a mission to honor Lorraine. Before her death, she wrote out specific instructions of how she wanted to be laid to rest, detailing several locations she wanted her ashes to be spread. Wagner was determined to visit every single one.
Their first stop was at the bar where Chuck and Lorraine first met. They then boarded a boat, spreading her ashes in the Pacific.
Wagner estimates he’s traveled over 11,000 miles, stopping in Alabama, Nebraska, Iowa, Arizona, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. He’s visited some of Lorraine’s favorite places, both before and after she met Chuck.
“This is extremely cathartic for me,” said Wagner. “It’s keeping me engaged. She’s been gone 14 months, and I’ve been traveling probably four of those months. Like I told the kids, ‘This is keeping mom with me longer.’ ”
Wagner’s currently in the last leg of the cross country road trip, visiting Mount Rushmore, where they vacationed after he left the Air Force, and St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, the same church where they tied the knot all those years ago.
Each location’s coordinates have been marked so that Steve and Laura can make the same journey with the ashes of their father.
Through his road trip, Chuck Wagner has been able to stay connected to the woman he loved so dearly. “Lorraine’s love lives forever and that’s the way it is,” Wagner said. “I was blessed to find her.”