Inevitably someone asks, who was the last soldier?  Overall the answer is Frank Buckles, a Missourian transplanted to West Virginia, who passed away in 2011 and the age of 110.

A Kansan did give the Missourian a run for his money.  Albert F. “Jud” Wagner was born September 5, 1899 in Lincoln County.  At the age of 17 he joined the United States Marine Corps, and was shipped to France in October 1918 with the 2nd Army Division, 6th Marine Regiment.  He saw most of his service as part of the Army of Occupation.

He returned to Smith County where he married, and he and his wife managed the County Poor Farm for 27 years.  They moved into Smith Center in 1957 and purchased a Lustron home (although not a WWI story, Lustrons are still rather interesting:  click here for more info).

Not surprisingly, his status as one of the last World War I veterans brought attention to him.  In October 2006 a 30-mile stretch of U.S. 36 through Smith County was designated the World War I Veterans Highway.  A month later he was recognized in a Veterans Day ceremony at the Statehouse in Topeka.

He passed away on January 20, 2007 at Smith Center.  He was 107.  Not only was he the last Kansan, but he was also the last Marine from the Great War.  A Marine detachment from Wichita provided a graveside service.

With his passing, there were only eight American veterans left from the Great War, including, of course, Frank Buckles.

The stories Wagner told his children about serving in France and Germany left a legacy.  Two of his sons would be Marines, and saw service in World War II and Korea.

Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.