Steve Wagner 1949 to 2016

The weekly three-mile Peace Walk around Lake Merritt is held every Sunday from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m., starting from the Colonnade. The name of the group is Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP).

Our memories of

Steve Wagner
February 20, 1949 to June 30, 2016

photos of Steve Wagner

The Lake Merritt Peace Walk, now in its 17th year, was co-founded by Steve Wagner and his wife Beth. These are some of our memories of Steve, who passed away on the 30th of June.

This is an ongoing project. We continue our weekly three-mile walk around the Lake, and we are also continuing to gather memories of Steve Wagner, so if you knew him, please send us your memories of him and we will gladly add them to the ones below. Please send to danielfortyone(at) and kobrenj(at)

Memories from comrades and family of Steve Wagner

from Linda Riewe:

I just saw Steve a few days ago. He was walking back from Kaiser and he didn't have much time to talk because he was going to meet someone at home, maybe Heather. He seemed fine. This is very sad news to hear of his passing away.

Beth told me this story about when she and Steve started dating. I guess they met at a Communist club or something, and Beth was organizing or facilitating the discussions. The first time Steve asked her to come into his apartment, all he had to drink in his apartment was milk, so he said, "Would you like to come in to have some milk?" and Beth thought to herself "Milk! Who asks someone to come in for milk!?" and she thought this was sweet and wholesome. Then Steve probably saw she appeared a little startled, and he got nervous and started saying something else, but Beth was actually thinking, "you had me at 'milk'".

One of their first dates was at La Taqueria at 24th and Mission in San Francisco. They continued going there for burritos after political demonstrations for many years.

Steve was a wonderfully kind person. He loved his family: his wife Beth, their daughter Heather, and he spent a lot of time babysitting his grandsons Tus, Little Tus, Sek, and Mbaz. Beth told me that sometimes she and Steve would drive around Lake Merritt in the middle of the night, get some ice cream, and sit out at the lake and eat it. They had a picture of Steve and Heather at a demonstration when Heather was little, with a sign saying something like "Kids for Peace", and I think Steve was so proud of that picture. The frosting on the cake for him were his grandsons, in whom he found so much joy.

From things Beth said, Steve's father was abusive to him and his brother. But Steve reversed that unfortunate repertoire. I never saw him say anything unkind to anyone. He went out of his way for people. Some examples I can give were all the times he drove us home after the movie night at their apartment, even when it was long after midnight -- at all hours of the night. For awhile he was driving us to get groceries on a weekly basis. He sometimes drove us home after the peace walk on Sunday afternoons, too. He drove us to the Friday folk music sing-alongs in San Francisco, also picking up a friend in the city and driving him home afterwards. He and Beth several times picked me up from the airport on my return from travels. He regularly accompanied a friend to her chemotherapy treatments.

Steve was very thoughtful. Beth said he sent newspaper clippings in a big envelope to his mother every day. He also emailed me and many of his friends links to news stories he thought were relevant to our interests. Even on June 29, the day before he died, he emailed us a link to a news story.

I think he counseled conscientious objectors at Swords to Ploughshares. He was very astute politically. There's a film clip of him when he was young, burning his Viet Nam draft card. We had many interesting political discussions while walking around the lake at the peace walk. You could trust his moral and ethical compass. As a founder with Beth of LMNOP, he was a major part of the glue that held us peace walkers together.

When Beth and Steve first had Heather (I don't know if I'm telling this exactly right), they were laid off from their jobs. They had to sell their house, and they moved in with Steve's father in Washington state. Steve's dad made them miserable. One thing Steve did to ease the misery for Beth was to bring her some Jane Austen novels. Thus began Beth's love of all things Jane Austen. One day at Lake Merritt she was reading a Jane Austen book that Steve had given her, and somehow the book fell into the lake. Steve waded into the water and fished it out, but there was a cut on his leg which became infected. His doctor gave him an antibiotic for the infection and told him to take a week off work to get over the infection. Steve said he didn't think it was a big enough deal to take off a whole week of work, but the doctor said "People die of that infection!" Steve would repeat this emphatically, as a cautionary tale if anybody was thinking of going into Lake Merritt, to warn them of how dirty the water is and how easily one could become infected from it.


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from Heather Wagner:

I had been meaning to post these
pics from this past Father's Day, late of course. Sadly, now I am posting them in memory of Steve Wagner who passed away from a massive heart attack today unexpectedly at 1:30pm. I am in shock and can't stop crying, he was the best Dad a girl could ever hope for, a devoted, loving husband to my mom, Beth Wagner, together for 41 years. My sons were lucky to have such an amazing Pawpaw, and I am honored to be his daughter. R.I.P. Dad 2/20/1949-6/30/2016


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from Robert Temple:

RIP Steve Wagner. I just learned that my friend who I worked with under termite eaten houses some 33 years ago died of a massive heart attack. Though we didn’t maintain constant contact, we had a bond that never disappeared with time.


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from Henry L Johnson:

It is still hard to use the past tense when referring to Steve.

From the Vietnam War to the present day Steve Wagner was a principled and dedicated peace activist. Unlike way too many Baby Boomers, he did not go home and disengage from peace and social justice issues once the Vietnam War and the draft had ended. He marched for peace whether the number on the streets with him were counted in hundreds of thousands or tens. He was always able to see through the facade of humanitarian war and reject the idea of dropping bombs and firing missiles for peace.

In his personal life Steve was one of the most generous people I have ever known. He was always looking for things to give to or share with others. I have more than twenty books that were given to me by Steve. He also gave me numerous magazine articles and clippings on topics that he knew were of interest to me.

Several years ago, when I was in the hospital recovering from surgery, Steve kept in touch with me and encouraged me through an exchange of email messages. Even though it was late in the evening, he kept up the correspondence until the battery of iPod Touch became too weak.

Steve also had a great sense of humor. Even though we are living in a time when we feel the anxiety over the lack of a mass movement against war and economic inequality, he was always able to find something humorous to say to make everyone feel better.


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from Brenda Gibson:

I am so sorry to hear about Steve's leaving us. What a shock and a terrible tragedy for Beth and their family. I am back to working on Sundays so can't come to the Lake walk. Will think of you guys Sunday.


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from Sandi Morey and Shim Farrell:

That is the saddest news in a week of terrible events. We both are shocked and very much saddened that Steve passed so suddenly. A life that left us much too soon. We will be at the Lake this Sunday to share grief with the other Lake folk.

I guess we met Steve and Beth going around the lake soon after 9-11 and before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Steve carried the Big Flag or the LMNOP Banner. He was very jolly, smart and a delightful guy. We went several times to movie night at Beth and Steve’s home and we very much enjoyed getting to know them. We would run into them at the anti war demonstrations in San Francisco.

Recently, I have been unable to walk the lake due to increasing decrepitness that has crept in. Arthritic ankles, back and hips have limited my formerly robust abilities. Amazing how that happens almost overnight. We sometimes ran into Steve & Beth with their grandson in a stroller and it was always just great to spend a few minutes playing “catch-up”.

Steve emailed us articles maybe every 2 weeks or so and the “ink” isn’t even dry on the last one. The articles were important and timely and we always appreciated his doing that for all of us.

Although we didn’t know Steve well on a personal basis, we were both shocked when we got the news from Daniel. We knew that Steve had recovered from a heart attack, but he seemed to have changed his lifestyle in very healthy ways and we were convinced that he would live to be a very old man. He recovered and began regular exercise and continued to walk the lake. He improved his diet and took delight in spending time with his grand baby and showing him off to any and all.

Steve and Beth were a team. They built LMNOP and were instrumental in keeping it going even if with just a small showing. When Beth was no longer able to do the Lake walks, Steve was a presence each and every week, no matter what the weather. Others came and went, but Steve was almost always there after his initial recovery.

We miss Steve. Even though we weren’t able to be part of the Lake walks it was comforting knowing that Steve would be there with a few other stalwart souls.

We hope that Beth and her daughter and the grandkids will take solace in knowing that Steve did an amazing amount of good works for peace and justice. We are glad we knew him.

Sandi and Shim

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from Catherine Jones:

I'd just sat down to answer your earlier email when I got your sad news about Steve Wagner. He was such a strong, dependable, sane and good-natured presence in LMNO4P -- a group that has functioned amazingly well without hierarchy or leaders. What a loss for everyone, especially Beth and their daughter!


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from Janet Kobren:

Steve was a dear, dear friend, an anchor and an amazing activist whom I met some time in 2004 at an LMNLP Peace Walk. He was smart, funny, thoughtful, caring, humble and courageous. He loved his family, stood behind people who were in personal or political struggle, was -- as I've seen someone else already having said -- on the right side of every issue and was full of stories about all kinds of adventures he either witnessed with Beth and Heather or participated in as front line resistance with fellow activists. I miss him immensely and my heart goes out to Beth and Heather.


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from Laura Wells:

So hard to believe that LMNOP’s Steve Wagner is gone.

Like everyone, I’ll miss his big smiling presence. It’s so strange, when a person is gone from this earth, how easy it is to imagine him in all the places I’m used to seeing him, near the Lake, on the sidewalk with Beth and the grandkids, watching films.

I’ll also miss his stories about the break-ups and crack-ups in the various Socialist organizations that he and Beth had been involved with over the decades. He had a great sense of humor about it all, although of course he cared tremendously.

And I’ll miss his occasional messages about pieces he had read that he wanted to pass along to me. He would almost always say, “You’ve probably seen this, but in case you haven’t, here’s it is.” And I usually had NOT seen it, but it was something that was perfect for me to read.

Another very important thing to me is this: I don’t know that many couples that really REALLY make sense to me, that seem like they are a really strong together, but I can say that about Beth and Steve. A really remarkable couple.


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from Rivian Berlin:

Although I didn't know Steve very well, since he died, I realize what an immense loss it is. His presence, although understated, at least for me, was very powerful -- immense strength, compassion, and humility all blended into one. A rare person, and one this world needed badly. I hope I can make the peace walk this Sunday, and I will try and get there early to see the photos.


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from Margaret Rossoff:

Thank you for this email. I knew Steve and Beth over 35 years ago and have touched bases intermittently in the years since. It was a shock to get this news. I would like to send belated condolences to Beth. Do you have an email address for her? Unfortunately I won't be able to come to the memorial.


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from Pat Maginnis:

Steve Wagner reminded me of other people who have influenced my thinking, with their own mental nourishment. Sort of a "speak softly, be persistent and don't let the gun toting warmongers beat you down. When I heard the Peace Walk announced on KPFA I hadn't made an ostensible move of that nature since the Vietnam era in the 1970s. When I got to the lake I found the determined group with Steve and Beth. Recently I had the chance to read Steve's short autobiography about being a downwinder and victim of the deadly nuclear research industry. These reminders tell me to remember Steve's persistence just as the others are doing. I'm planning to be back the end of July and see you then.

Compa, Pat

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from Jeff:

I’ve often referred to Steve affectionately as “The Gentle Giant”, an appellation one ascribed to former SF Giants baseball star Willie McCovey. He was gentle, didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and at 6’3” he definitely was a “Giant”.

But as we did our weekly Peace Walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA. Steve always had that piercing look in his eye that proclaimed, “Yes we are against these wars, these interventions, and we’re quite serious about it.”

Nurtured and encouraged by his loving wife Beth, Steve never wavered in his commitment to the idea of social justice. Well read and well informed, he always kept me on my toes whenever my mind wandered off into more frivolous pursuits.

We’ve lost a great friend in Steve Wagner. Let us now proceed in his honor!


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The weekly three-mile Peace Walk around Lake Merritt is held every Sunday from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m., starting from the Colonnade. The name of the group is Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP).

Here are links to articles and essays about the Peace Walk:

A brief history of LMNOP by Steve & Beth Wagner.

"Honk for Peace at Lake Merritt,” by Daniel Borgström.

Wind of Peace in California
A Japanese reporter visits Bay Area peace groups.

A Downwinder’s Story
by Steve Wagner.

Bruce Bortin's weblog satellite photo of Lake Merritt, & comments.

photos of Steve Wagner