Judge Jerry Wagner of Bloomfield age 88, passed away on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. Jerry Wagner had been a judge of the Superior Court of Connecticut since 1979 and served on the Judicial Executive Committee and the Executive Board of the Connecticut Judges’ Association. He became a judge trial referee in 1991 and had become the oldest active referee in the Hartford Judicial District. Born in New Haven, the son of Nathan and Clara Themper Wagner, he was educated at Hillhouse High School, Yale University, and Harvard Law School. After a brief period of private practice in New Haven, and service in various governmental posts in Washington, D.C. including the United States Dept. of Housing, he came to the Hartford area to practice law with Ribicoff and Kotkin in 1953. He established his own law practice in Bloomfield in 1956 and was a senior partner in the firm of Wagner, Beck, and Pinney until 1979. A veteran of the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, he served as State Representative and Town Attorney for Bloomfield, on the Bloomfield Redevelopment Commission, and Chairman of the Bicentennial Commission.
A past president of the Wintonbury Historical Society, he wrote a pamphlet on the political history of Bloomfield and was an editor of “From Wintonbury to Bloomfield” published in 1983. A volunteer fireman for over twenty years, he worked with children as Chairman of the Y.M.C.A., Youth in Government Assembly, and for many years served on the Career Advisory Committee at Bloomfield High School. He had been an instructor in Legal Ethics at UCONN Law School, a founder of the Capital Region Library Association, and served as a Special Assistant in the Washington headquarters of the Hubert Humphrey presidential campaign. He was prominent in Bar activities, serving as Legislative Chairman, and on the Ethics Committee of the Connecticut Bar Association and on the Board of the Hartford County Bar Association, and the Harvard Law School Association of Connecticut. In 1971, he appeared before the United States Supreme Court in the case of Tilton v. Richardson. Judge Wagner had been active in Jewish communal and religious affairs, both locally and nationally, serving as chairman of the Social Action Committee of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism and was an honorary vice-president. He had served as national vice-president of the American Jewish Congress, the United Synagogue of America, and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. In Greater Hartford, he served as president of the Hartford Jewish Community Center, chairman of the Commission on Jewish Education, president of the Jewish Historical Society, president of the Midrasha Hebrew High School and president of Beth Hillel Synagogue. He served as vice-chairman of the Hartford Jewish Federation, Secretary of the World Council of Synagogues, and on the National boards of the Hillel Foundation, the Jewish Publication Society of America, the National Yiddish Book Center, and Boston Hebrew College. He chaired several committees of the Council of Jewish Federations and was a delegate to numerous international assemblies including those in Israel and Europe on behalf of Soviet Jewry. He served on the board of the Hillel Foundation at the University of Connecticut, and more recently, on the boards of Trinity College Hillel and the Greenberg Center at the University of Hartford as well as the Yale Club of Hartford. For many years he was an officer of the Harry E. Johnson Post of the American Legion and chaired the annual Memorial Day observances in Bloomfield for over 25 years. He was also a member of the American Judicature Society, Hiram Lodge AF&AM, Arrarat Lodge of B’nai Brith, Laurel Post of the Jewish War Veterans, and the Connecticut Historical Society. While in the 1959 legislature, he was an active proponent of our state laws prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and education, and in the creation and expansion of the Commission of Human Rights and opportunities, as well as the establishment of the full time circuit court. He was a candidate for State Senate in 1966 and 1978, and served as counsel for the Senate Majority in 1967-68. As chairman of the Hartford Chapter of the American Jewish Congress and the Connecticut Jewish Community Relations Council, he took a leading role in Project Concern, an interfaith effort to promote fairness and integration in education, as well as the Coalition of Conscience, which aimed at improving relations between the Jewish and African American communities. He was a moderator for the Oak Park Conference in Bloomfield and for many years was a convening member of the Greater Hartford Urban Religious Coalition. In 1961, he was named as one of the outstanding young men in Connecticut by the Junior Chamber of Commerce and was honored with the Isaiah Award of the Hartford Jewish Federation (1973), the B’nai Brith Humanism Award (1980), the NAACP Human Rights Award (1994), the Oliver Filley Award of the Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce (2001), The Touro Synagogue of Newport, RI Memorial Award for Religious Freedom and Tolerance (2001), The Yale Club of Hartford Nathan Hale Award (2003), The Carol Rosenwald Award (Nursing Home Resident Councils 2004), and the Lions Club Leadership Award (2007).
He was married to Sally Hurvitz Wagner for 63 years, prior to her death in 2013, and leaves his three children, Jonathan Wagner (married to Lena) of Brooklyn NY, Paula Baram (married to David Baram) of Bloomfield, and Michael S. Wagner (married to Laura) of West Springfield, MA; and his grandchildren, Daniel and Mathew Baram and Rachel and Abigail Wagner, Arik Wagner and two great grandchildren. His brother, Harry Wagner of Delray, Florida, and a sister, Sara Schwartz, of New Haven, predeceased him. An amateur bookbinder, he has restored books for many individuals and libraries including the Hartford County Bar Library. He instituted in 2008, the annual practice of reading major sections of the Declaration of Independence at a timely town green concert.
Funeral services will held at 10: a.m. Friday, October 3, 2014 at Beth Hillel Synagogue, 160 Wintonbury Avenue Bloomfield, CT. Interment will follow in Beth Hillel Synagogue Cemetery, Wolcott Rd., East Granby. In Lieu of Flowers, donations may be made to any of the following; The Bloomfield Center Volunteer Fire Company, 18 Wintonbury Avenue Bloomfield, CT 06002, Beth Hillel Synagogue160 Wintonbury Avenue Bloomfield, CT 06002, The Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, University of Hartford , 200 Bloomfield Ave. W. Hartford, CT 06117-1599. Arrangements are entrusted to Weinstein Mortuary, Hartford.