Dr. Milton Lee Wagner, 89, passed away on August 26, 2020, surrounded by his loving family. He was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on February 24, 1931, to Sam and Mary Sukman Wagner of blessed memory. Milton attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur graduating in 1948 before heading to the University of Texas. At UT, his areas of study were zoology and biology. He was a beloved member of Sigma Alpha Mu, and the honorary pre-med fraternity Alpha Epsilon Delta.
His commitment to scholastic excellence and personal achievement earned him acceptance into medical school after only three years as an undergraduate student. He graduated from the University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston) in 1955 and was inducted into the honorary medical fraternity Alpha Omega Alpha. Following his graduation, he served as a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force in Goose Bay, Labrador, where he learned that he definitely was not a cold-weather person. His residency followed at Philadelphia General Hospital.
In early 1962, he was introduced to Barbara Sue Alpard and they married on July 1,1962, at Westwood Country Club in Houston. Their song was “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
After their wedding, they returned to Philadelphia for Milton’s fellowship in pediatric radiology at St. Christopher’s Hospital. Upon completing his fellowship, they returned to Texas where he joined the staff at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. After a year, they moved to Oklahoma City where he practiced adult radiology at Baptist Hospital with his uncle Dr. Robert Sukman. Milton and Barbara welcomed their first child, Bradley, born in February 1965.
In late 1966, Milton accepted an offer from Dr. Edward Singleton to come to Houston to help develop the department of pediatric radiology at Texas Children’s Hospital. Six months later, after moving to Houston, Alisha was born in June 1967.
Milton practiced at Texas Children’s for 34 years as a highly respected and devoted member of Singleton Associates. In 1983, he served as president of the TCH medical staff. His numerous academic contributions to the field of pediatric radiology included co-authoring Radiologic Atlas of Pulmonary Abnormalities in Children and Radiology of the Alimentary Tract in Infants and Children with Dr. Singleton and Dr. Robert Dutton. Milton was the lead author of a landmark article that was one of the first in reporting on the imaging appearance of typhlitis in children, published in the American Journal of Roentgenology in June 1970.
He was a highly regarded clinician and an influential educator for and mentor to numerous up-and-coming physicians. His kids and grandkids continue to visit countless number of doctors who speak fondly about the outstanding training Milton provided.
Over the years, there were many fun family trips to Wharton (Barbara’s hometown), Colorado, Wyoming, California, New York and cruises to the Pacific Northwest and the Caribbean. Milton and Barbara enjoyed traveling internationally as well as attending out-of-town medical conferences where they made special, long-lasting friendships.
He and Barbara were longtime season-ticket holders to the Houston Symphony and the Houston Ballet. In later years, they took up ballroom dancing and spent many an evening showing off their new talent.
Milton enjoyed fine wine, dining out, art and classical music. Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and Bach were among his favorite composers. Whistling his favorite music, songs, jingles or just about anything else was one of his great pleasures. He loved reading and, in recent years, immersed himself in classic works of fiction and stories of life in Europe and life during World War II.
His trademark sense of humor endeared him to everyone and when told a good joke, he couldn’t wait to share it with those around him. Emailing family and friends articles on current events, sports, jokes and, especially thoughtful notes simply to say hello, provided him a fulfilling outlet.
In 2003, Milton and Barbara were blessed with their grandchildren, Jake and Rebecca and, in 2005, Madelyn. They relished attending the kids’ school plays, athletic competition and grandparent events. They adored their grandchildren, often referring to them as the “Little Darlings.” Taking a page from their digital world, Milton enjoyed texting back and forth with them.
His beloved Texas Longhorns highlighted Milton’s lifelong enthusiasm for sports and athletic competition. He had football season tickets for more than 50 years enjoying UT games with family and friends, especially Alisha, who developed her passion for Longhorn football and the university in general during these years. At the same time, he and Brad traveled to Dallas each October for the Texas-OU game. It made for several unique stories with Milton wearing burnt orange and Brad dressed in crimson and cream.
Another of his great sports passions was the Boston Red Sox, which originated from his adoration of Ted Williams. While Brad chose a different direction when it came to favorite collegiate sports programs, he followed Milton’s lead as a die-hard Red Sox fan. After years of experiencing agonizing drama and heartbreak, they watched with enormous delight – and relief – the ending of the Curse as the Sox won the 2004 World Series. More good times and memories were made as Boston added three more World Series Titles in recent years. Milton also was a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and enjoyed fond memories of taking his dad, Sam, to games at the Cotton Bowl in the franchise’s formative years. Houston’s teams, though, never were far from his heart, especially the Rockets, for which he was a longtime season-ticket holder.
His membership in professional organizations included The John Caffey Society, Radiological Society of North America, the Society for Pediatric Radiology, American Roentgen Ray Society and the Texas Radiological Society. He also was a member of Congregation Emanu El, the Jewish Community Center and the Texas Exes.
We extend our gratitude and appreciation to his doctors: Matthew Lenz, Roberto Lufschanowski, Hussein Elkousy, Thomas Mehlhoff, Daniel Franklin, Igor Cherches, Adrienne Glaich, F. Lyone Hochman, Garth Beinart and Bin Teh. Special thanks go to caregivers and helpers: Julia Ornelas, Yessika Garcia, Penny Isaac and Justina Anigbogu.
Milton was predeceased by his wife, Barbara, who passed away in 2012, two weeks shy of their 50th anniversary. He is survived by his son Bradley Wagner; daughter Alisha and husband Jonathan Risch; sister Rae and husband Paul Engel; grandchildren Jacob, Rebecca and Madelyn; sister-in-law Shirley Schnitzer; niece Julie Schnitzer; nephews Stephen Engel, Gary Schnitzer and Jeff Schnitzer; and numerous cousins and friends.
A private service and burial were held August 30 at Emanu El Memorial Park with Rabbi Roy Walter and Rabbi Adrienne Scott officiating.
In lieu of customary remembrances, contributions can be made to the University of Texas Medical Branch (https://development.utmb.edu/), American Cancer Society (https://donate3.cancer.org/), or Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (https://donate.lls.org/).
Zoom Funeral Service: https://youtu.be/AhcyvPU3nU4