Couple’s legacy lives on through $500K gift to Health Lives Here campaign

Ellen and Melvin Wagner lived a humble life in Sheboygan. He was an accountant. She was a housewife. They didn’t have children, and they were smart with their money.

In 1968, their trust officer suggested they set up a foundation so they could have a lasting impact in their community.

“It was an idea that really appealed to them,” shared Dolores Slesrick, Ellen’s close friend. “Unfortunately, Melvin passed away a few months after they set up the foundation.”

The Melvin F. and Ellen L. Wagner Foundation supports 11 local charities that were important to the couple: educational institutions because of Melvin’s accounting background, two churches they were active members of, the Sheboygan County Humane Society because of Ellen’s love for animals, and several hospitals and health organizations, including Aurora Health Care Foundation.

When Ellen passed away at the age of 86, she made bequests to a few individuals and friends, but the majority went to the foundation.

Recently, the Melvin F. and Ellen L. Wagner Foundation made a gift of $500,000 to support the Health Lives Here campaign to enhance the new Aurora Medical Center Sheboygan County. The Wagner Foundation has a strong history of generously supporting Aurora in Sheboygan County. Other gifts have benefited programs such as robotic surgery, behavioral health and palliative care.

“Ellen was a very special person. She wanted their money to mean something greater and to pay it forward in their community,” said Dolores. “She was truly a one-of-a-kind person – and friend.”

If you’d like more information on how you can leave a lasting impact in your community through a planned gift, please contact John Holmberg at 630-929-6945 or