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Father Bob moving on
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Photo by BRIAN GOFF
Father Bob Wagenseil and his wife PT at his retirement party in 2014.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – For 18 years Father Bob Wagenseil served as pastor of the Calvary Episcopal Church in Indian Rocks Beach. For many of those years he was the chaplain of the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue Department. In addition to that he headed up a sailing program for young people.

Now he is moving on.

Wagenseil, 63, retired from the church four years ago, but he stayed active. He continued the sailing program and operated out of the Clearwater Yacht Club on Clearwater Beach.

During that time, he and his wife PT remained in their home in Largo.

He knew though, that it would all have to come to an end because that’s the way they planned it.

“PT just retired after 21 years teaching at St. Patrick’s school,” he said. “We promised each other when that happened we would try to find a quieter place to live.”

They assumed that quieter place would be in South Carolina, but once the reality of what they were planning hit home they decided not to go that far away.

“So, we looked closer to home and found a place in Crystal River,” he said.

Once the decision was made everything fell into place. Their Largo home sold in two hours after it was put on the market and the move took place on Aug. 16.

Wagenseil’s journey to Indian Rocks Beach was an interesting one. He studied at a seminary in Wisconsin then moved to Long Island where he was assistant priest at two churches in two separate postings.

Then his career took a giant leap forward when he got his own parish at All Saints Episcopal in Sunnyside, New York City. During his 11 years there he was made dean of North Queens and became archdeacon of Queens in 1993.

Two years after that he was asked to come to Calvary Episcopal in Indian Rocks Beach. He was reluctant to make the move.

“I’ll be really honest with you; personally, I didn’t want to come here at all. I love New York City, and it doesn’t get much better than to be made archdeacon in that diocese,” he said in an interview about the time he retired.

With some time, prayer and thought, Wagenseil decided to make the move.

“The bottom line is you always have to think and pray about this, and when good people say we really think you belong here, and when your bishop agrees, that’s when men and women of faith ask the question, what am I supposed to do?” he said. “It is not always the action we want and that is usually an indication that it is the right thing to do.”

He agreed, after his 18 years as pastor, that it was the right thing to do. So was his decision to retire.

“For the most part life in retirement has been good,” he said. “I’ve been able to help out as needed and was able to continue with the sailing program.”

That program, to anyone who knows “Father Bob,” is the love of his life. Even with this move to Crystal River he intends to stay involved in the program.

“The sailing program was essentially a full-time job,” he said. “It had been part of the church for 15 or 16 years. We got support from the Rotary Club, the Yacht Club and of course the church. I was able to continue what was an important part of what I did as a priest there. I was able to keep it alive after I retired and I hope it will continue on for some time.”

Longtime friend Ned Covel is taking over as director of the youth sailing program. Wagenseil is confident it is in good hands.

He reflected on his time spent running the program and the young people that came through. Many of them spent years in the program.

“I would say we taught 500 kids at least,” he said. “A number of them started with us when they were very young, some just 5 years old. They are now 18, 19 or 20, some of them have stayed on board and helped”

Many more came back to honor Wagenseil at his final graduation ceremony. He was touched.

“It was very moving,” he said. “It was our final day of summer camp, the graduation at the last session. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including me. The kids put a book together with little messages, it was very special.”

Now that his wife, PT, has retired, and he has moved on from all his other duties, Wagenseil said he hopes he and his wife get some alone time that was so precious up until now.

“We hope to have an opportunity to get away and spend some time together,” he said. “We were married 40 years in June and they have been a busy 40 years. It is time to spend a little more time with the people you love … by marriage.”

That still doesn’t mean he won’t miss what he is leaving behind. Just the contrary – he said he will miss his life in Pinellas County very much.

“Whenever there is change it will always be bittersweet, you know,” he said. “We will be taking wonderful memories and hope people will come to visit us and we’ll come back to visit them.”

“We will never disappear from the lives of the people we love, and that’s a long list.”
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