Mineola says goodbye to beloved ambassador

Posted 9/22/22

Mineola bid farewell to one of its biggest supporters last week.

Lou Hooks Wagner, 83, died Tuesday, Sept. 13. Services were Friday at the First Baptist Church.

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Mineola says goodbye to beloved ambassador


Mineola bid farewell to one of its biggest supporters last week.

Lou Hooks Wagner, 83, died Tuesday, Sept. 13. Services were Friday at the First Baptist Church.

She was remembered by former students as a longtime educator in the Mineola School District (where she was once the teacher of the year); as a member of the Hooks family, founders and longtime operators of the Historic Select Theater; and as a community benefactor, most notably through her work with the Meredith Foundation, serving its board for 18 years.

Her connection with the foundation was a close one, as her father, Robert Hooks Jr. and the foundations’ founder, Harry Meredith, were good friends.

Little wonder that Lou Wagner became the first female member of the foundation board and was elected as its chairman in 2015, after serving as its secretary-treasurer. In recent years she kept that family legacy alive, passing the torch to daughter Robin Averett to serve on the five-member board in 2020.

Wagner was a member of the First Baptist Church of Mineola. She held degrees from Baylor in 1960, encouraging local students to attend her alma mater, and a masters from what was then known as East Texas State University in Commerce in the early ‘70s.

She served on the Mineola City Council, and in addition to her teaching career in distributive education at Mineola High School, she served the district as its business manager.

A member of the MHS Class of 1956, she was honored as outstanding Mineola High School alumni at the all-school reunion in 2019.

Among the many beneficiaries of the Meredith Foundation has been the Mineola Civic Center.

Manager Nancy Murphy said “regal” is the word that comes to mind when she thinks of Lou Wagner.

“She had a way about her, the way she carried herself,” Murphy said.

“She was no-nonsense. She was straight-forward, but fair.”

Murphy said Wagner loved Mineola and was a delight to work with, and she loved the civic center and what it offered to the city.

City Manager Mercy Rushing was a Wagner student after she moved to Mineola as a sophomore and considered her a mentor, and later a friend.

The lessons she taught were about how to conduct yourself as well as useful life skills – things Rushing says she still lives by today.

Rushing described Wagner as a strong woman, who instilled that in her students, imparting the wisdom, “Don’t depend on anybody but yourself.”

And she was a huge supporter of all things Mineola – the business community, historic preservation, tourism and the arts.

“She will be missed,” Rushing said, adding that a lot of people looked up to her and wanted to be like her.

In a 2015 interview, Wagner said this of the Meredith Foundations’ impact on the community.

“Asked if she feels the responsibility of the significance of the organization and what it has done for the community, she answers, ‘That’s putting it lightly.’ She remembers when she went to school in Mineola, ‘We had nothing.’ Even in the 1970s and 1980s the impact the foundation would have on the school and community wasn’t realized yet.”

Among the organizations supported by the foundation since its inception in 1958 are Addie McFarland Foundation, APET-SPCA, City of Mineola, Grace Community Healthcare, Lake Country Playhouse / Select Theater, Mineola Civic Center, Mineola ISD, Mineola Memorial Library, the Mineola League of the Arts, Mineola Youth Foundation, Methodist Children’s Home and United Way of Mineola. Distributions generally exceed $1 million per year and have eclipsed $35 million.