Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The death of a most generous soul, the candy store’s nonagenarian November 28, 2016



I NEVER KNEW HIM. Only photographed him in early October. But I saw in him—in the curve of his spine, in his hands, in the flour on his pant leg—a man passionate about his work.

Herbert R. (Hippy) Wagner, 91, entrepreneur, businessman, and owner of Jim’s Apple Farm and Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store in Jordan, died on November 21 following a sudden illness. So says his obituary published in the Duluth News Tribune.




I regret not introducing myself to this man while visiting the signature yellow candy store along US Highway 169. There I spotted Hippy behind the pie counter, rag in hand wiping the countertop where I presume pie crusts are rolled and/or pies assembled. I purchased a caramel apple pie, still warm from the oven and tastefully delicious.




While waiting in line for that pie, I snapped these images. They are favorites from my candy store visit. I learned of Hippy’s death while researching to publish these photos.


As I read his obituary, it wasn’t Herb’s successes in business—he also operated the family-owned Wagner’s Supper Club back in the day— or his many years of community involvement/service that most impressed me, but his generosity.

While a Merchant Marine walking through Antwerp, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, he gave away all of his rations to starving children.

That giving spirit, according to his obit, continued throughout Herb’s life:

He was extraordinarily generous in large and small ways, from baking home-made bread and personally delivering it to the home-bound, to lending money to people who were “down on their luck” and could not get a bank loan for a business or home.

But there’s more. Faith and family were of utmost importance. He was the father of ten and a devout Catholic. He loved classical music and sometimes awakened his children to the rousing marches of John Philip Sousa piped throughout the family’s house. And I know that he also loved polkas, the only music played at the candy store.

To be remembered in an obituary with such loving words and memories speaks volumes to Hippy’s character.

I would have liked him.

FYI: Click here to read my recent series on Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store. And please check back for one final post featuring my favorite photo from that visit.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “The death of a most generous soul, the candy store’s nonagenarian”

  1. Lost in presence but not in spirit, RIP to a good and stout soul!

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    A bittersweet post. Because of your gifted use of verbiage, I feel an unusual sense of loss. Thank you, dear Friend……..

  3. Awe! Now that sounds like a life well lived. Thoughts and prayers to those that knew him

  4. Valerie Says:

    Great job on your research, and good timing. Sounds like a wonderful and inspiring man.

  5. Mary Says:

    Beautiful, touching tribute.
    Your words warmed my soul.
    Thank you from the depths of my heart.

  6. Littlesundog Says:

    Very strange to feel like I lost someone I knew. Hippy was special for sure. It’s pretty cool that he played polka music in the candy store. That’s some of the happiest music there is. 🙂

  7. Cheryl Nagel Says:

    So sorry to hear this news about Hippy… I would have liked him too – he sounds like a great man. You captured his “story” beautifully. Thank you for sharing it!

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