Eight Bells: Mike Wagner

Published on April 24th, 2023

On March 29th, 2023, Mike Wagner set sail for eternity. His final moments were spent in the comfort of his home, surrounded by his loved ones.

As he was lovingly called by the junior sailors he mentored, ‘Big Mike’ filled his 64 years to the gills, and the impact he made on his local communities would lead one to believe he had lived multiple lives at once. Whenever anyone suggested that he slow down, Mike would say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” — so the man who always ran mach-2 with his hair on fire is finally able to rest.

Mike was born to Lolita and James Wagner in Southern California. Following his father’s death, the family relocated to Costa Mesa and spent their summer sailing on a catamaran. Mike and his sister, Sandy, developed a life-long love for sailing, and Mike even ventured into repairing boats as his first part-time job.

Mike graduated from California State University Long Beach with a degree in Business and Marketing. In 1986, he married Stephanie, and over the course of their almost 37 year-long-marriage, they sailed competitively, traveled, and made several states home. Soon after their daughter Rachel was born, they moved to Delaware, where Mike ventured into entrepreneurship and started Flashpoint Marketing.

Mike could not join any activity or community without expecting and ensuring that professionalism, integrity, and excellence reigned. He was often seen at school board and civic association meetings, advocating for issues ranging from cyber-bullying and academic freedom to safe-driving speeds.

Over the past 14 years, Mike shared his love for sailing and Corinthian spirit with young people across the Chesapeake. Along with Sharlene Wilkins, his friend and junior sailing partner, Mike transformed what was once a week-long summer camp into the North East River Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing program.

Together, they facilitated the hiring of registered U.S. sailing instructors, creating an officially recognized summer camp that serves hundreds of children each year. Additionally, Mike helped bring the University of Delaware Sail Club to NERYC, where they practice regularly and host inter-collegiate regattas.

He also served as the Sail Race Chair on NERYC’s Board of Governors and joined the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association’s leadership as the Junior Sailing Division Chair and the Vice-President of Communications. Finally, Mike led the charge to create the North East Bay Racers, a traveling race team that has granted dozens of children and young people the opportunity to hone their skills and develop a life-long love for the sport.

While Mike mentored dozens of junior sailors, one truly became a part of the Wagner family. At only eight years old, Skylor Sweet joined Mike and Rachel as they sailed the bright-red J/24 Solaris around the Chesapeake.

In order to continue sailing in middle and high school, Skylor lived with Mike and Stephanie for five years, and now sails competitively at the collegiate level. After being Mike’s long-time crew, road-trip companion, and mentee, Skylor became the son that Mike never had.

Stephanie and Rachel invite Mike’s friends and supporters to a celebration of his life on April 30th, 2023, at the North East River Yacht Club, 80 Bayside Drive, North East, MD, 21901. There will be a visitation with the family at 2:00pm, and a formal celebration at 3:00pm.

The celebration will be streamed on Zoom for those unable to attend in person. Rachel and Stephanie suggest finding a way to incorporate red – the color of Mike’s beloved Solaris – into your attire on the 30th.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to either the North East River Youth Sailing Foundation or the Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research & Information, Inc.

Mike was a founding member of the North East River Youth Sailing Foundation (NERYSF), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, which was “[e]stablished to promote and support youth oriented sailing and maritime focused educational activities in the northern Chesapeake Bay region.” To help NERSYF provide opportunities to those who might not have the resources to get out on the water, donations can be made via nerysf.com or PO Box 694 North East 21901.

The Musella Foundation is a “501(c)3 nonprofit public charity dedicated to helping brain tumor patients through emotional and financial support, education, advocacy and raising money for brain tumor research.” Mike passed due to an aggressive and malignant brain tumor, called a glioblastoma. Donations to the Musella Foundation can be made at https://virtualtrials.org/index.cfm.

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