‘She could light up a room’: Friend, faculty remember Wagner

Bobby Shipman

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Braun and Wagner

Braun and Wagner Photo courtesy of Braun

Chase Braun and Alyssa Wagner always had a good time when they were together – no matter the time of day.

The pair shared many laughs during the four years they spent together on the Jasper High School marching band, traveling from city to city by bus for competition, Braun said.

“On the way home from trips, when it’s like 11, 12 o’clock midnight, everyone’s trying to sleep and we would sit in the back of the bus and we would hoop and holler and laugh and people would get mad us because we were keeping them up,” Braun said. “We didn’t really care what anyone thought.”

Wagner died March 8 in a car accident.

The 22-year-old was driving northbound on the Pennyrile Parkway in Kentucky in a 2004 Lincoln Aviator carrying five passengers, according to Kentucky State Police, when for unknown reasons her vehicle exited the left-hand shoulder of the roadway near the 30-mile marker and struck an overpass support column at 11:15 a.m.

The vehicle then re-entered the northbound lanes, where police said it overturned onto its passenger side – stopping in the roadway.

Wagner, a senior nursing major from Ireland, Indiana, was set to graduate in May.

“We are all so young and for something like that to happen to anyone our age, it shocked me,” Braun said.

The senior German and international studies double major said he and Wagner were close in high school.

“She was really good at making people laugh,” he said. “Even if someone was in a bad mood, her personality – just being around her – always put a smile on my face.”

Braun said she had a sarcastic, dry humor.

“She was very nonchalant,” he said, pointing out that she would make a joke without laughing. “She would just look away while everybody was cracking up.”

Braun said he was always impressed by Wagner’s sheer intelligence.

“She would grasp things so quickly and she retained things well,” he said. “So I’m sure she was on (track) to have a really bright future in the nursing world.”

Students from their class at Jasper went in on a flower arrangement for her funeral, Braun said.

“A bunch of kids in our class got together and like had beer in a little place in Ireland, where she’s from, in honor of her,” he said.

Gina Schaar was Wagner’s adviser as well as her teacher.

The assistant professor of nursing said she admired Wagner’s drive and professionalism.

“She was determined to work hard and be diligent in what she needed to accomplish,” Schaar said. “She knew what she wanted.”

Wagner, Schaar said, was also easy-going.

“Those seemingly small things that sometimes shake other people a little bit, she would ride those little waves out and not be taken off course easily,” she said.

The week prior to the accident, Wagner visited Schaar’s office full of excitement about her upcoming graduation, Schaar said, and informed the adviser of a position she recently accepted at Deaconess Gateway Hospital.

“(Wagner) was going to blossom,” she said.

Schaar said her favorite part of teaching nursing is seeing the way her students positively impact the nursing world and she is sad she did not get to witness Wagner’s.

“You felt good when she walked to your office and when she walked out,” Schaar said.

Nursing instructor Dawn Worman oversaw Wagner in her first clinical group.

Worman said families of patients Wagner worked with would stop her in the hall.

“Even as a brand new nursing student, they were coming out and giving me great comments about the care she (Wagner) provided,” Worman said. “She made excellent connections with the patients. She made them feel comfortable and cared for.”

Worman said Wagner was a warm and genuine student who was eager to learn.

“Her smile – she had her little dimples – I mean she could light up a room,” she said. “I was looking very forward to where her nursing career was going to go.”

Braun said they lost touch at USI because of their busy schedules, but wouldn’t miss a beat in passing, acting as if no time had passed since their last encounter.

“I just think the world’s going to miss her laugh and her smile,” he said. “She’s definitely a very bright and cheery person.”