Cranbury History Center will be renamed in honor of local historian

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The Cranbury History Center on South Main Street, Cranbury, will be renamed in honor of the late Betty Wagner, a former township historian who played an active role in her adopted community.

The Cranbury Historical and Preservation Society, of which Wagner was a past president, intends to have a rededication ceremony, scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 11, at the center. Members of Wagner’s family and others are expected to attend the event, which is open to the public.

Wagner died in May at 100. Friends this week remembered all the East Brunswick native did for the community she moved to in 1971 with her husband, Bill. At the time, she had been working as a librarian for an advertising agency in New York City.

“She became very involved in the town,” said Lisa Beach, a member of the society and curator of the organization’s museum. “She was just tireless. I don’t think she ever was meant to be an activist, but I think that’s what subtly she was, in changing things in Cranbury for the better what she thought.”

Wagner belonged to the Cranbury Historical and Preservation Society, served on the municipal Planning Board and got involved in local issues, including fighting to keep a dump from opening in town and to preserve the community’s history.

Beach said Wagner never craved the spotlight and was quick “to thank others for their work.”

“She would never take credit,” Beach said. “I don’t even know how comfortable she would have been with the naming of the history center because she was so selfless.”

One of her accomplishments was starting the center, home to archival and other material that help to tell the story of the community. It will now be called the Elizabeth M. Wagner Cranbury History Center.

“We want it to be a town-wide event because we really want people to be aware of all that Betty has done for the town,” Beach said of the rededication ceremony.

Wagner, born on Oct. 22,1917, celebrated her 100th birthday last year.

“I just lived every day to its fullest as I could see it,” she said in an interview last year. “I did things as I saw they needed to be done. I like doing things for others, primarily.”

She died in May.

Township officials intend to declare Nov. 11 as Betty Wagner Day in Cranbury.

For Beach, Wagner accomplished so much in her life.

“She’s always been a good friend and mentor to me all the years I’ve known her,” Beach said. “I don’t know if we will see the likes of her again, unfortunately.”