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Martina E. Wagner Bennett 1926-2022

Martina “Tina” E. (Rogers) Wagner Bennett, October 2, 1926 – June 20, 2022. After a long, loving and mischievous run here on earth, Tina has taken an indefinite leave of absence from her duties as top notch thrifter (leaving the local thrift shops to ponder their future financial sustainability).

The eldest child of Edith (Moore) and Martin Rogers, Tina spent her childhood on Rogers Road in Chattanooga, TN with her two siblings, Patricia Parsons (deceased), and Walter Rogers (deceased). It was the 1930’s, and on a road named after their family, the Rogers children excitedly welcomed the advent of electricity and running water. When not watching the water swirl down the new commode (as Tina would call it), her curly red head could be found playing with her neighbors, the Wagner kids down the road. At nine years old, Tina met Roy, Taylor, Jeaneine, Marcie and Reba for the first time. Although Tina loved the entire Wagner brood, it was Roy that held her hand when she turned eleven, and at seventeen he smooched her for the first time under a weeping willow tree. That same year as the smooch, it was Roy that asked her to marry him before he shipped out in the Navy to serve in the War. She said no. “We were so young; we wouldn’t have lasted longer than a snowball in you know where…”. A couple years went by, and he asked again. Again, a no. We have a lovely hunch she was attending too many USO dances at the Don Cesar in Saint Petersburg, FL to be settled down just yet.

The third time’s the charm.

On February 24, 1951, while wearing an aqua dressmaker suit with black accessories and a corsage of orchids, Martina E. Rogers finally married Roy K. Wagner at the Asbury Methodist Church in Chattanooga, TN. He cried that day, so happy that she finally said yes. A couple of years and duty stations later, Navy life led Roy and Tina to Submarine Base New London. Connecticut quickly grew on the young couple, and it was here in Ledyard, CT that they settled and raised their two sons, Roy Kenneth Wagner, Jr. and Bradford H. Wagner. As a Navy wife, and young mother, Martina kept busy during Roy’s deployments by starting projects that Roy good naturedly teased her she’d never finish. The two large, hand braided rag rugs that are now family treasures were only completed out of a feisty determination to prove Roy wrong. Thanks, Roy!

Once the business of raising her boys was done, Martina put her pre-marriage secretarial certificate to good use by serving the Ledyard Board of Education for a period of years that was long enough for a retirement party to be had. While in their employ, Tina realized that her grandchildren’s summer camp bus would pass by her office daily. Much to the confusion of all but two of the children on that bus that summer – a little white-haired lady randomly waved and smiled each morning as the bus lumbered by. The two children who knew, waved right back.

Martina and Roy shared forty-five years of marriage, and a lifetime of love during which they welcomed their grandchildren, John Wagner (deceased), Keleigh Wagner, Ric Lawson, Alexander (Rachelle) Wagner and Andrew Wagner. On December 1, 1996, Roy bid an earthy adieu to the love of his life, leaving Tina heartbroken, but later open to claim her self-proclaimed moniker of “cougar”.

On August 14, 1999, surrounded by family and friends with her granddaughter as her maid of honor, Tina married the second love of her life (and six years her junior), Charles Bennett at the Ledyard Gales Ferry Baptist Church. Splitting their time between Charles’s family farm in New Hampshire, their home in Connecticut and camping over the winters at MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa, FL, Tina and Charles built a life of love that was beautiful to witness. Although both Tina and Charles seem quiet and well mannered, there are rumors of Florida campground shenanigans the likes of which will be known only to their many camper friends that became family. Both Tina and Charles would agree that Charles spoiled her, and she was quite happy with that arrangement.

For all of the love in her life, there was one thing that Tina loathed. Her middle name. Frequently and vehemently promising to haunt us if we dared to add it to her headstone. We’ll just say that there’s a famous Oak Ridge Boys song of the same name that starts with the letter E. It is our hope that she’s scowling down with a twinkle in her eye at our attempt to circumvent her threats.

As much as Tina hated her middle name, she loved raw onions - the more the better. Her giggle was entirely contagious, and her bright blue eyes were usually lit with a mischievous twinkle that matched an impish grin. These qualities paired with a fine ability to tell jokes that could (and did) make sailors blush. Tina boasted championship back scratching skills, along with (usually) amazing cooking abilities. There was the infamous chip beef and gravy incident, but we blame that on the pre-WWII pan. Speaking of the Big War, most of Tina’s pots and pans, and some of her spices almost pre-date it. Not one to throw out something that was perfectly good, she held onto items like she held onto living life to the fullest. Firmly and enthusiastically.

Always prepared, and a grandmother to her core, Tina was rarely without a gallon Ziplock baggie of hard candies in her purse and at the ready. She could slice a tomato thinner than a shoestring, her chicken casserole fed your soul, and she’d likely serve you a bowl of hot soup on a summer day (she really loved soup). Tina made being a grandmother seem like something she was born ready for. After a bit of time her grandchildren grudgingly decided to share their Gram, giving her four great-grandchildren who adored her more than words, even as she often enjoyed trying to embarrass them. Anna, Jackson, Evelyn & Madeline, you’re lucky your parents shared.

In addition to those mentioned above, Tina leaves behind her family by marriage: Kathy (Joe), Robert and Chris (Angus). A slew of dearly loved nieces, nephews and her Wagner sisters back in Tennessee and her grandson by marriage, Joe Baretincic III.

Tina gifts us a life well lived, love in abundance and a soul that made the world a brighter place. Rest easy, Martina. Until we meet again, we will be loving you for always and promise to thrift in your honor, so the stores can stay afloat.

Services will be held on Thursday, July 14, 2022, at 11:00 am at the Harkness Chapel at Connecticut College: 833 Williams Street, New London, CT 06320. Parking can be found on Williams Street, as well as on campus along the road between the Knowlton to Freeman dormitories, or on Cro Boulevard. The family cordially invites guests to a luncheon immediately following the services.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you clean out your closet, home, room or garage and donate your gently used items to Goodwill. Not only do they do important work in communities across the country, but we also think they’ll appreciate the re-stocking efforts after years of Tina popping tags.

If you would really like to make a monetary charitable donation, please consider donating in Tina’s name to the United Service Organizations (USO). Not only was Tina an active USO volunteer during WWII, she also appreciated the work they do to keep families connected to their service members.

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