Inducted: October 31, 2007
As Clerk of Dover Township for 23 years, he fought for sound land use planning, aware that the productive acreage in his home municipality was irreplaceable. In the process, he helped write drainage laws, and became known as an authority on municipal government.
Mr. Gagner was born in Pain Court, the son of D. D. (Dieudonne) Gagner and the former Helena Caron. His interest in municipal government was nurtured early, by a father who preceded him as Clerk of Dover Township, after service on Township Council.
Mr. Gagner attended elementary school in Pain Court; then went on to the University of Ottawa for his secondary and University education. He owned and operated a grocery store for 20 years, but he was always best known for his municipal responsibilities.
Mr. Gagner was deeply interested in French language education, and he was instrumental in setting up the first Bilingual Trustees Association in Ontario. He was second President, and took an influential role in its development. Locally, he was a faithful school board member.
Mr. Gagner served as a Member at Large (Appointed) on the 1975-1976 AMO Board of Directors, and also served on the Joint AMO/ROMA Committee on Agricultural Land Drainage.
Mr. Gagner was the founding Secretary of the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, and was responsible for some of its forward-looking policies and programs. He was a member of the Environmental Assessment Board of Ontario; and the Drainage Tribunal of Ontario. He became an expert on drainage in a part of the province which depended on it for a considerable part of agricultural productivity.
In the community, he was a member of the Pines Advisory Board and the St. Joseph’s Hospital Advisory Board. He served on the local school board, and was a member of the Kent Club. In his retirement years, he was a member of the Pain Court Golden Age Club.
He and his wife, the former Irene Daniel, had two daughters, Mrs. Rene (Yvette) Pigeon, of Ottawa; and Mrs. Fred (Jacqueline) Vincent, of Hemet, California; two sons, Ronald (Dieu Donne III), Lighthouse Cove; and Raoul Laurin, Chatham; and 17 grandchildren. He had a brother, Roland, of Windsor, who predeceased; and three sisters, Sister Yvonne (Viola) Gagner and Sister Eveline Gagner, both of the Sisters of St. Joseph Residence, London, and Mrs. Percy (Yvonne) Nugent, Granger, Indiana.
Mr. Gagner retired in 1976. At a testimonial dinner in his honour, he was recognized as “an authority on municipal government”. “He was”, one friend said, “a man of steadfast principles and standards, who wanted the best for his municipality.”
To Donald McGeorge, an engineer involved with many drainage projects in Dover Township, he was an icon. He remembers him as a man who wanted to make the municipality he lived in a better place, always without any thought of financial gain. “People would come to him, day after day, seeking advice, because they respected him. He had a tremendous work ethic. He wasn’t a 9 to 5 person.”
In the early years, the municipal council supervised the drainage, and sometimes, as a result, “things didn’t get done”. Mr. Gagner was fluently bilingual; and Mr. McGeorge recalls depending on him for translations when many Dover residents did not speak English; and the people responsible for projects did not speak French.
He had, Mr. McGeorge said, “an intricate knowledge of drainage”, in a municipality that depended on it for farm productivity. “I don’t know how I would ever have gotten along without him. He was an exceptional person.”
His son, Ronald, remembers his father as a man of high principles – “and he stuck by them”. Raoul Gagner liked a brisk discussion on a current topic, but at the end of the discussion, his position would usually prevail. Associates remember Raoul Gagner as a man who believed in people, and their ability to succeed if they were willing to expend the effort. He would provide quiet encouragement to many young people, and take pleasure in their success.
Sister Eveline remembered her brother’s concern over the encroachment of urban development on Township land. “He wanted good farmland to be used for farming.”
Lee Montgomery, a member of the Dover Township Planning Board, said the township was the first rural municipality in Ontario to have an Official Land Use Plan, a reason for pride. A former member of Township Council said that Mr. Gagner stood for all that local government should be. “He rejoiced every time someone with high standards and principles was elected to council. He knew he would have an ally and friend.”