RIP: Charles Van Wagner


VAN WAGNER, Charles Edward, 1924 – 2023

On July 27, Charles (Charlie) Van Wagner died peacefully in Courtenay, B.C. He was 98.

Charles grew up in Montreal and at Camp Nominingue in the Laurentians. After graduating from McGill University in Chemical Engineering, he worked in the paint industry for several years. He then changed course and obtained a degree in Forestry at the University of Toronto. His new career brought him, along with his growing family, to the Deep River area.

During his 30-year career as a research scientist in the Canadian Forest Service, Charles became internationally respected for his work on forest fire behaviour and ecology. He led the development of the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System. He left a lasting legacy in the field of forest fire science, contributing long after retirement and publishing his final paper in 2022.

Throughout his life, Charles fulfilled his love of the outdoors through cross-country skiing, canoeing, and hiking. He spent countless days on the ski trails at the Petawawa Forestry, and for many years designed and maintained the trail network there. Numerous canoe trips included a memorable journey down the Dumoine with his brother Peter. He took children Carol, Susan, and Peter camping in Algonquin Park, hiking at Driftwood, and skiing in the woods around the house. Later on, he also enjoyed taking grandchildren Richard and Andrew on outdoor expeditions.

Charles was a lifelong classical music enthusiast, playing the French horn in the Deep River Symphony Orchestra, and later the Pembroke Symphony Orchestra up until the age of 90. He sang in numerous performances of The Messiah. He remained an avid reader until his final days, and gained an impressive knowledge of history along the way.

With his wife Jean, Charles shared many happy adventures sailing on the Ottawa River and travelling widely. More recently, they moved to Courtenay on Vancouver Island, where Charles enjoyed his final years.

With his wife Jean, Charles shared many happy adventures sailing on the Ottawa River and travelling widely. Their travels included ocean cruises, and trips to the U.K. and Europe to explore ancient ruins. They made multiple car trips across Canada, stopping to see friends and colleagues enroute. More recently they settled in the Comox Valley, where Charles enjoyed his final years.

Charles will be sadly missed by his loving wife of 39 years, Jean. His children Carol, Susan and Peter. Grandchildren Richard and Andrew. Step-sons Anthony, Peter, and David. Step-grandchildren Robin and Kyle. Fondly remembered by many friends and colleagues. At a later date, family will gather privately to celebrate his life.

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