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Dr. Robert E. Wegner, Ph.D., of Vestaburg, passed away at home on Wednesday, September 12, at the age of 83. Though he suffered from advancing dementia in his latter years, he led an active, productive, and fulfilling life. Robert was born on March l, 1929, to Ernst R. and Esther (Strebelow) Wegner in Cleveland, Ohio.

He graduated from Lakewood High School, Ohio, and went on for advanced studies at Michigan State University (B.A.), the University of Iowa Writing Program, and Case Western Reserve University (M.A. & Ph.D) in English. His early full-length critical study, The Poetry and Prose of E.E. Cummings (Harcourt, Brace & World 1965) made important contributions to understanding this American poet’s achievement. He taught briefly at Wilmington College in Ohio before coming to Alma College in Michigan in 1957, where he was a faculty member in the English department for 34 years. Students in his classes will remember him as an engaging and challenging educator who called on them to think beyond familiar or standard responses to a writer’s work – and to make full use of the power of language not just as an expressive tool but as a mode of genuine thinking and discovery.

For many years he served as advisor to the student creative writing group, the Parnassians, convening students at his home to discuss works of student poetry and fiction. His own short fiction was published in a variety of venues including The Carleton Miscellany and Esquire. Perhaps his best-known story, “I’m Going Down to Watch the Horses Come Alive,” was included in several collections of modern and contemporary fiction in the 1980s. He was editor, with James Tipton, of a collection entitled The Third Coast: Contemporary Michigan Fiction (Wayne State University Press, 1982). His most recent creative effort was a completed novel about an historical American Indian named Logan.

Robert survived cancer as a young man and throughout his life served as a source of support and encouragement to others who battled this disease. Anyone who knew him recognized his love for his dogs and the outdoors – and for the woods, lakes and streams of Michigan in particular. He was an avid camper and an accomplished trout fisherman. He enjoyed feeding the birds and deer. In 1970 he purchased a 160-acre tract of wooded land in central Michigan that included a trout stream. For 40 years this land has been his home and the site of outdoor gatherings of family and friends.

Robert is survived by his wife of 62 years, Phyllis (Larimer) Wegner; three children, Gregory R. (Valerie) Wegner of Grand Rapids, Julie W. (John) Arnold of Vestaburg, and Mark T. (Betty) Wegner of Vestaburg; four grandchildren, James Wegner, LeeAnna W. (Jason) Robinson, Justin Wegner, Alayne Wegner; and one brother, Thomas N. (Sally) Wegner of Tucson, AZ. He was preceded in death by his parents.

A private family memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial donation to the Alma College English Department.

To send a message of sympathy to the family, sign Dr. Wegner’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit: www.ChristiansenCares.com Arrangements were entrusted to Christiansen Cremation & Funeral Care, Greenville

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1 Condolence

  1. Anonymous on September 12, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Guestbook

    09/30/2012 –

    Marcia Polenberg

    May he happily sing all those Burl Ives songs and other folk songs forever. I wish you, his dear family, peace and fond memories.


    09/24/2012 –

    Linda Koebert

    I never met your father, Julie, but his obituary reveals an extraordinary man…much like his daughter! The loss of a parent is never easy. May decades of happy memories sustain you during this time of grief.


    09/24/2012 –

    A sympathy card has been sent to the family of Robert E. Wegner, Ph.D. c/o Christiansen Cremation & Funeral Care funeral home.


    09/22/2012 –

    Wynne Noble Potter

    Phyllis and “kids”,
    I’m remembering your dad, fondly, and smiling as I revisit some of our times together. Enjoyed him very much! You must all have great memories and I’m sure are busy sharing those now. What a treasure and gift he was.
    Wynne


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