Laura Dean Bennett
If you know June Marie “Junie” Viers Wagner, you know she has a youthful attitude and a humorous way of putting things.
Junie grew up in Marlinton and has lived here all of her life.
She’s a mother, a grandmother and an excellent conversationalist.
She worked for a time as a telephone operator before becoming a homemaker and starting a family – and she’s never driven a car.
“I never really needed to,” Junie said. “When I suppose I should have been learning to drive, there was gas rationing because of the war.
“Then later, my husband, Edward, tried to teach me how to drive, but when he was teaching me, he’d get so frustrated, he threatened to get out of the car and walk home several times.
“Finally he gave up and said someone else would have to do it, it wasn’t going to be him,” she laughed.
“But I’ve always had someone to drive me when I needed to go somewhere.
“These days it’s been my son, Mark.
“Mark lives the closest – he just didn’t move far enough away,” she said, with her typical sense of humor.
“Mom may not know how to drive, but she’s a great back seat driver,” said Mark, who is the manager of Pocahontas IGA.
“Yes, I consider myself an excellent back seat driver,” Junie said proudly.
“I like to sit right behind the driver’s seat where I can see what’s going on and give advice.”
Her late husband was Norman Edward Wagner.
He worked for the postal service and was the well-liked and well-respected postmaster in Marlinton for many years.
“Edward was six years older than me, but his sister Gaynell was my age, and we were friends,” she said.
“I had gone to West Virginia Business College in Fairmont after high school. But I wanted to come home.
“So I was back in Marlinton, and one day I was in at the Alpine Hotel. They had a restaurant there where a lot of the young people our age hung out.
“I knew Gaynell had just gotten married. It was a small, family wedding, and I wasn’t family then. I saw her brother, Edward, and I went over and asked him about the wedding.
“And that’s how we met.”
Junie and Ed had three sons and two daughters – Kathryn, who is deceased, and Sara Wagner Casto, who is administrative secretary at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital.
“It’s so odd to think that all my sons are in their sixties now,” Junie said.
There’s David, who is retired from Seneca State Park. He and his wife live in Dunmore.
There’s Douglas, who is now retired from a career in the Army, and lives with his wife in Central Florida.
Then came their youngest son, Mark, who, with his wife Terry, lives in Marlinton.
“Oh, all my children take good care of me,” Junie said.
David has taken care of maintenance and all responsibility for the family home ever since their father passed.
Sara visits her mom every day and does most of her grocery shopping.
Doug comes in at least once a year for a visit, calls regularly from Florida and hires house cleaners to keep the house in order.
“But Mark gets stuck driving me most all the time,” she said.
In her day, Junie was an excellent cook.
“I cooked a lot of the same things that my mom cooked – fried potatoes, brown beans and cornbread or navy beans, fried chicken,” Junie said. “The kids always liked it when we had chocolate cake with chocolate icing.”
She said she made a lot of cakes, but she wasn’t too hot on pies.
“My favorite meal that Mom made was always baked steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans and rolls,” Mark said.
“She made wonderful rolls!
“Her biscuits weren’t the best. Dad used to say that they were like hockey pucks,” he laughed.
“But her rolls more than made up for that.”
Mark also remembers that his mom always liked to make fudge.
“When Mom would make fudge, she’d say, ‘Mark, come in here and stir this for me.’
“She’d say, ‘now, don’t stop stirring – don’t let it stick!’
“Years later I found out why she always asked me to stir the fudge.
“She told me one time, ‘I gave you the job of stirring the fudge to keep you busy and out of my hair for a little while.’”
Apparently Mark was quite a handful as a child.
“I think Mark probably took after me,” Junie admitted.
Mark says he can’t quite recall all the things he got into as a boy, and Junie backs him up on that.
“I can’t remember all the pesky things he did – although, he was a very active child,” Junie admitted.
“Mark was always into something.
“He was the youngest of our three boys – the two girls came later.
“Every year, on the last day of school, and this is absolutely true – he’d have some kind of accident, like a wrecked bike or something, and he’d need bandages or stitches or both.”
Mark remembers his curious “last day of school accidents” and he also remembers the time he fell through the heat vent.
“Ours was a two story house with heat vents in the floor,” Mark remembered.
“Mom always kept them covered with furniture. But one day she was cleaning and had a dresser pulled away from the wall.
“There was that heat vent. It was only about 12 inches by 15 inches, and it used to go straight down to the old wood stove in the kitchen.
“She was mopping, and she said, ‘Mark, don’t go near that hole.’”
Junie must have turned her back and, yep, you guessed it…
“I put both feet in and slid right into it and fell all the way down to the first floor,” Mark said.
“He was hollering before he even hit,” his mom recalled.
“Thankfully, he didn’t get hurt, he just ended up falling into a pile of pots and pans and making a mess,” Junie said, smiling.
“Mom played what I thought was a pretty neat game with me when I was little,” Mark remembered. “She used to put me in an old Army blanket and sling me around the floor.
“I was hanging on for dear life and she was actually polishing the dining room floor.
“And I remember how she always liked to take us kids over to the baseball field to watch Marlinton Little League games.
“We’d sit on the railroad tracks and have such a good time,” Mark recalled.
Junie can look back on many decades of Mother’s Day memories.
“There was a time when people used to wear corsages for Mother’s Day,” she recalled.
“You’d give your mom one and you’d wear one yourself.
“Ed wore a white corsage on his collar signifying that his mother had passed away.
“And I would wear a colored flower because my mother was still living.”
Junie cherished all the Mother’s Day gifts her children made for her during their growing up years.
“I can’t remember all the Mother’s Day gifts that my kids gave me when they were growing up,” she said, “but I know they were always sweet and tried to give me something.
“In elementary school we made Mother’s Day gifts – handmade carnations from tissue paper with a pipe cleaner stem,” Mark recalled.
“One year I gave her a homemade card with a verse inside.
“It said, ‘In all the world there is no other to take the place of my dear mother.’
“She really liked it.
“Every year since then, I always include that verse with my Mother’s Day cards and gifts to her.”
Junie looks forward to those cards every year.
“He still puts that verse in his cards to me,” she said fondly.
When he was 14, Mark was diagnosed with diabetes and, of course, Junie immediately started worrying about how to keep her youngest son healthy.
“The year we found out he was diabetic, I thought, ‘oh my, what are we going to do for his Easter basket?”’ she said.
“Well, we had a close friend of the family who had told us about their new dachshund puppy, and so that’s what Mark got in his Easter basket – a little dachshund puppy that we named Hilda.
Hilda – who became the first of several dachshunds that the Wagner family had over the years – fast became a beloved member of the family, so much so that Junie wrote a humorous poem about her.
“Mom has always written poetry,” Mark said. “It’s just one of the things that makes her special.”
These days, Junie doesn’t do much cooking – the occasional batch of fudge notwithstanding.
“Really, at my age, I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the stove!” she said, with a chuckle.
“Mark and Sara bring me food a lot of times, but I’m frequently invited to eat at Mark and Terry’s house.
“Like I said, Mark didn’t move far enough away,” she laughed.
“One of the best things about Mom is that’s she’s so funny, and she doesn’t even mean to be,” Mark said. “She’s just naturally funny.
“I like to cut up a lot, too, so maybe I do take after her.”
Junie is a lifelong Metho-dist, a member of the Marlinton United Methodist Church.
She loves to read – she enjoys modern Western novels and says she’s read most of Nicholas Sparks’ books.
She still likes to write poetry and she has, for many years, kept a journal, which began when she started writing about her childhood.
Despite the fact that she “takes a pill for diabetes,” she sometimes gives in to her sweet tooth.
“Mom loves candy, especially milk chocolate. She likes Hershey Kisses, and 5th Avenue candy bars are her favorite,” Mark said.
Her kids have always taken her out to eat for Mother’s Day – one of her favorite spots being the Boyer Station when it was open.
When asked what she might expect this Mother’s Day, Junie said she’ll be happy no matter what her family does.
“All of my children are just wonderful,” she enthused. “I always look forward to hearing from them on Mother’s Day.
“This year will be a little different with the Covid-19 virus and all. We’re all trying to be so careful.
“I’ll maybe get a few cards and some phone calls and maybe the kids will bring me some candy.”
And there just might be something a little different this year from Mark.
“In all the world there is no other to take the place of my dear mother.”