By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Ianita Wagner is a 47-year Lake Arrowhead resident, having moved full-time to the mountain in 1973. She has been actively involved in the community for decades.
A Sturgis, S.D., native, she moved to Monterey Park, Calif., when she was 5, grew up, married and raised her children in Sherman Oaks. Prior to moving to Lake Arrowhead, she had a vacation home here with her first husband.
After all these years helping the Lake Arrowhead community, Ianita will be moving to Albuquerque, N.M., in early August to live with her youngest daughter, Patty, and her family. Patty is a 1973 Rim High graduate.
Ianita is looking forward to celebrating her 89th birthday next month in her new home in the warm climate, with her family of two daughters, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
In the early 1970s, Ianita was very involved in the Lake Arrowhead Water Ski Club. She was recognized as the first female waterskiing race boat driver on the lake, in direct competition with the male drivers, who respected her excellent abilities. She won many competitions, often pulling the younger and female skiers with her pink ski boat, “Tickled Pink.”
“The men drivers had more powerful ski boats,” she acknowledged, “but I pulled the kids; they weighed less and we won.” She was declared “The Remarkable Lady of Lake Arrowhead” in the 1970s, becoming a role model for the young women of Lake Arrowhead, proving what women can accomplish with tenacity and ability. “Tickled Pink” still sits in her Point Hamiltair garage as a testimony to her driving abilities.
Ianita has belonged to the Lake Arrowhead Yacht Club for almost 45 years and was an active supporter of the summer weekend sailboat races, plus she’s always supported the Hobie Cat races. These activities encourage excellence in sailing skills, encouraging youth and sailboat owners to improve their skills. “That I will miss when I move,” she said.
Ianita worked at several locations when she first moved to the mountains, including the Chalet in the Village and the Sportsman’s Restaurant in Cedar Glen. A gentleman she met one day in 1978 at the Sportsman’s changed her life. She met Ralph Wagner when he crawled under the table to help her look for her lost contact lens. They married in 1979. She was Ralph’s perfect supporter. She enabled him to be involved in the community and his service clubs and assisted him in all he did over the past 40 years.
Ralph was a respected water expert, known throughout the state of California, when he died last year. However, Ralph did not type. All of the facts and figures he submitted to the newspapers on lake levels, she typed for him, so the community could be informed.
Ralph wrote articles for “On the Mountain” magazine for a decade. Plus, he wrote a book on Lake Arrowhead history, What Is It? He was the first president of the Arrowhead Lake Association (and remained on its board until his death) and the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District, so the book has unique insights into the lake’s history. Ianita typed every one of those words, either from his longhand or dictation. That book added many behind-the-scenes details into the history of Lake Arrowhead and the construction of Papoose Lake, since he was one of the active participants in getting Papoose Lake Dam financed and built.
Ianita is a decades-long member of the Lake Arrowhead Women’s Club but has never been one to sit on the sidelines and just belong. The Women’s Club has been an integral part of the Lake Arrowhead community, promoting the status of women, supporting youth, local history, education and has contributed to the core of the community since its formation in the 1930s. She was president of the club for a combination of 10 years.
Ianita has an innate sense of how to solve difficulties and works well with others. She has been on the Mountain Meals on Wheels board of directors for 37 years, serving for the past several years as president. Ianita is the longest-term member of the board. Mountain Meals on Wheels recognized Ianita’s dedication and leadership when they awarded her their Lifetime Achievement Award at their annual fundraising dinner in 2019.
Despite Ralph’s death this last year, Ianita has continued running this essential service for the mountain community. It feeds those who cannot provide meals for themselves, especially challenging during this time of COVID-19. They instantly changed their procedures and instigated complete safety measures for the safety of their drivers, the workers at Mountains Communities Hospital and their recipients. “So far, we’ve delivered 3,614 meals this year, since we are serving to our capacity more than ever before,” Ianita said.
During the COVID-19 challenge, they have also been able to provide bags of groceries to their all their recipients, plus those 10 still on the waiting list.
“Ianita has been a mainstay at Mountain Meals on Wheels, supporting emergency meal preparations, our annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser and many other events and actions. We will miss her greatly,” said fellow MOW board member Jack Cooperman.
Ianita is also known aa a very nice person, who is dedicated to her family. She’s proud of her 13 great-grandkids and has many long-time friends, who will miss her advice and friendship. She has great concern for others, demonstrated by her decades-long support of the MCH Hospital Foundation.
Ianita was also a volunteer with the hospital auxiliary for many decades, serving as the auxiliary’s president in 1990-91. “In those days, we actually volunteered at the hospital’s business offices, filing papers and doing admitting and laboratory paperwork, freeing up hospital personnel from mundane office work, allowing them to get more accomplished before the days of everything being computerized,” she said.
Through the years, Ianita has been involved in many other local organizations on this mountain, including a decade with the Rim of the World Historical Society and the Mountain History Museum. Prior to her departure, she has donated many historic items to the museum for their future displays.
Ianita Wagner is looking forward to this next step in her life. “I no longer need this large house for myself and I am looking forward to spending more time with my family.”