Cover photo for F. Timothy Nagler's Obituary
F. Timothy Nagler Profile Photo
1947 F. 2020

F. Timothy Nagler

March 22, 1947 — February 16, 2020

F. Timothy Nagler, President and Safety Director of Jungclaus-Campbell Co., Inc., general contractors in Indianapolis since 1875, died on February 16, 2020.  The cause was complications of two rare cancers, Waldenstom’s macroglobulinemia and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, according to his son John.

Although neither his previous careers in teaching and journalism nor his love of the bow tie would have seemed to augur success in construction when he joined Jungclaus-Campbell in 1981, he learned estimating from the best and with a smile credited an English major’s zest for the details on plans to having studied Greek.

He embraced “Total Quality” ideas then in vogue and developed trademarked programs in Safety (he insisted it be capitalized), Quality and Partnering.  They were not window dressing.  Until 2019, eight years had passed without so much as a Band-Aid.  In most years, legal fees were zero — or close to it.

In an industry that provides training mostly on the employees’ time, if at all, he embraced paid training for everyone — from laborers and carpenters on up — and got a charge out of booking everyone in deluxe hotels.  He gave talks on concrete quality at industry events and was proud to earn a “Best Public Project” award from the American Concrete Institute.  It recognized the ProQuality(TM) program for improving quality on a $1.6 million dam, the first in Jungclaus’s long history.  As it turned out, unfortunately, what really needed improving was the estimate.

He had learned the ropes and much more from his father-in-law and the firm’s fourth-generation leader, Bill Campbell.  He purchased the firm in 1990 and became its president in 1992.  Since 1995, the firm has contributed more than 12 percent of its earnings to charity in cash.  He called it, “Paying our civic rent.”

He was born in the riparian village of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, 60 miles east of Minneapolis, on March 22, 1947.  His father was a lawyer, his mother, a homemaker who fittingly had taught Home Economics before raising six children.  He was an Eagle Scout.

After graduating from high school in Amery, Wisconsin, he attended Carleton College, majoring in English.  In light of the careers that followed, he could always count on a laugh by reciting his favorite English professor’s scorching comment on his first paper: “Your writing has none of the assumed virtues of English prose.”  Even worse, it was true.

He loved English literature, however, was not deterred, and after graduation moved to The Hotchkiss School, a Connecticut boarding school totally imbued with tweed and Ivy dress, to teach English, live in a dorm and coach JV Swimming and debate.  His colleagues, especially the bow-tie-wearing head of the English Department, a 1928 Rhodes Scholar, exemplified Mr. Chips and inspired him to attend graduate school after three years.

Enrolling at the University of Virginia, as fine a place as existed to study the Eighteenth Century authors he loved, he was lucky to have as his advisor for five years the great Swift biographer Irvin Ehrenpreis.  And also from Charlottesville he began working as a stringer, or local correspondent, for The New York Times, contributing to stories for about $40 or, in one case, writing the major Page One story on Sunday.  It bemoaned changes in teaching college English — and sizzled with quotes from none other than his Carleton mentor, Owen Jenkins.

Five years later, teaching jobs had dried up.  Enamored by then with the South and journalism, he joined the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser in 1977 to write editorials under Joe McFadden and the famed Ray Jenkins. It had recently won a Pulitzer Prize and was feeling its oats broadly, not just as George Wallace’s constant critic.  His teaching experience fit him for writing about education, the teachers’ union that virtually controlled state government, and the bloated junior college system, a particularly soft target because it functioned equally as both a classroom and a hiring hall for legislators’ relatives.

One such editorial, “Alabama Mafia,” stated that the junior colleges’ 40-60 percent profits put the real Mafia’s rumored enterprises to shame.  The incendiary title probably brought the state superintendent of education to the publisher’s office faster than ever, but again there were no changes.

Although his building experience had been limited to hewing log cabins in the Maine woods, he had felt the appeal of working at Jungclaus and of someday having a larger impact; now, with a growing family, construction seemed worth trying in spite of lacking a narrowly relevant degree.  Teaching, writing editorials and running Jungclaus all proved equally satisfying — and fun.

From his college years on he had a love affair with Pine Island Camp and by extension with Maine.  Wonderful friendships resulted, particularly a 35-year friendship and correspondence with its inspiring owner Jun Swan.  He served on the boards of Indianapolis Opera, the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Park Tudor School and Jameson Camp; and when it came to board service to antique entities, his bow tie led — and held — like a magnet: The University Club, Sunset Swimming Corporation (30 years) and Pine Island Camp, 50 years.

He enjoyed cooking, camping, whitewater canoeing — particularly on Maine’s Allagash River with his five sons and their mentor Gardner Defoe — travel, dinner parties, reading poetry, conversation and writing letters by hand and in green ink, the color, as it happened, of both his Hotchkiss mentor Dick Gurney and Jungclaus.  At the time of his death he was working with the Bauer Latoza Studio in Chicago on plans for putting offices in the legendary Jungclaus Mill.  Here the company made the doors, windows and millwork for scores of notable landmarks, such as the Murat Temple, the Circle Tower, the Indiana and Circle Theatres, L.S. Ayres and the Columbia Club.

He taught Business Writing part-time at DePauw University for a few years, wrote fund-raising brochures and catalogs for numerous non-profits and turned out humorous verse for birthdays and special occasions (“Ode to the Bow” accompanied the frequent gift of one of his made-in-Florence, It., bow ties).  He wrote Pine Island Camp: the First 100 Years, a history, and as the father of five sons was a prolific amanuensis for a rhyming Tooth Fairy.  Even the Tooth Fairy, however, did not stray far from a dictate he admonished in many business letters, citing John Adams: “Facts are stubborn things.”

“Stubborn,” unfortunately, also described his leukemia — “chronic” was a cruel misnomer both in health and definition.  His family is grateful for the care of Drs. Etyan Stein and M. Lia Palomba at MSKCC, of Dr. Ed Fry, and for exceptionally personal attention from Dr. Andrew Greenspan at I.U. Health.

He is survived by his younger siblings Tom, Bill, Mary and Nancy, by his wife Nancy, by two granddaughters, and by five sons: Bill (Kirsten), Jim, John, Peter (Ida) and Tom.  They will become the sixth-generation owners of Jungclaus-Campbell Co., Inc. and of the 825 Massachusetts Avenue home where it has had its offices, warehouses and shops since 1895.

Funeral services private.  A memorial service will occur later.  To receive a notice of this memorial service, please write to:

In lieu of flowers, please consider gifts to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Museum of Art or the Tim Nagler Canoeing Fund at Pine Island Camp.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of F. Timothy Nagler, please visit our flower store.


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