WESTBROOK, Maine / MADISON—Mollie Clare “Peanut” Van Wagner was born in Chicago, Ill., on her mother’s birthday, July 29, 1989, to Christopher T. Van Wagner and Margaret-Mary “Peggy” Kelly. Mollie attended Our Lady Queen of Peace grade school. While there, Mollie thrived in musical theater under the late Steve Bolser’s direction, as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. That led to star turns, as Baby June in Gypsy, by Nancy Thurow’s CTM of Madison. Mollie attended Edgewood High School where she put her years of dance on display through both the Pom Squad and Dennis McKinley’s Show Choir, then graduated from James Madison Memorial High School in 2007. Following high school, Mollie took a whirl at Arizona State University and, while there, served on the grounds crew for the Sun Devils’ baseball team.
Sadly, Mollie’s growing struggle with addictions and mental health issues ultimately ended her college career before graduation, as she began a decade-long descent into the maelstrom of alcohol and substance abuse. Those struggles led to heroin addiction four years ago, and would have ended her young life even sooner, were it not for miraculous work by the Madison Police Dept’s NARCAN opiate overdose program. Twice, three years apart, those good people rescued Mollie from death’s grip, letting her battle on against her demons. Alas, those demons overtook her on Sept. 24, 2018, where she died cold and alone from an opiate overdose, her faithful dog, Jocko (Mollie’s rescued pit) beside her until discovered. Tragically, Mollie had been making hopeful plans, and her last words for her parents and closest friend Kristen, inspired renewed hope that Mollie could overcome. She did not. She is now gone, another beautiful young person lost to the scourge of heroin abuse.
When clean and sober, Mollie had a sharp wit, a wicked sense of humor and a radiant beauty that shone through every one of hundreds of gym and bathroom selfies. When clean and sober, Mollie could do the work of three people and often did. By candid, frank talk of her struggles, she allowed others in distress to find comfort and hope. And she appreciated beauty in this world. But her faith slipped away as her substance abuse grew. That left her unable to grab ahold and hang on to life as she careened through her tumultuous last few years. Perhaps in death Mollie will rediscover her faith and, with your prayers, be granted eternal repose. Mollie entered this world late and left too soon, but made lasting impressions on so many in so short a life.
Mollie was preceded in death by her grandparents, Hans and Marjorie Helland of Wisconsin Dells and Cecilia A. Van Wagner of Ewing, N.J. She leaves behind her parents, Christopher T. Van Wagner and Margaret-Mary “Peggy” Kelly of Madison; as well as her three siblings, William Joseph, Emily Ann and Mary Kate. She is survived near and far by many wonderful aunts, uncles and cousins who were always ready with a shoulder, an inspirational word and unconditional love.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m., on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, at ST. PATRICK’S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, 404 E. Main Street, Madison, with Monsignor Kevin Holmes presiding. Interment will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Wisconsin Dells, nearby her loving Papa Hans. A brief visitation for Mollie Clare will start at 9 a.m., at St. Patrick’s, and the Rosary will be prayed first at 8:45 am.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to help pay for NARCAN for all Madison Police officers (checks to “City of Madison” with “Mollie Van Wagner/NARCAN” in the memo, mailed to “Off. Bernie Albright, SIU, MARI Coordinator, City of Madison Police Dept, 211 S. Carroll St, Madison WI 53703”) or the Brew City Bully Club, 6669 So. 76th Street, Greendale WI 53129 (to help rescue more Jocko’s).
The Picha Funeral Home and Crematory of Wisconsin Dells, assisted the family with arrangements. For online condolences go to www.pichafuneralhome.com.