Saturday, August 02, 2008

Obituary: Donald A. Wendt

MADISON-Donald A. Wendt was born March 29, 1920, to Anna and Ted Wendt in Marshfield. He died July 24, 2008, at his home at Oakwood Village West. Don grew up in Marshfield with his sisters Betty and Ruth and his brothers Bill and Ted. He played baseball, worked on his grandparents' farm and just generally enjoyed his boyhood growing up in Marshfield. He graduated from Marshfield's McKinley High School in 1938 and enrolled in the Business Institute of Milwaukee. He was drafted into the U.S. Army (March 29, 1942) and after a brief educational deferment he enlisted in the Army and began his military training at Camp Swift, Texas. After serving in the Military Police and promotions to corporal and sergeant, he was appointed to Officer's Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga. He received his commission as a second lieutenant and was assigned as a platoon leader with the 90th Division. He participated in the Normandy invasion, landing on Utah Beach June 6, 1944. After his platoon participated intaking the towns of Chef du Mont and Picauville, Don was seriously wounded by a mortar round near St. Mere Eglise on June 11. He survived his wounds thanks to excellent battlefield medical care and received the Purple Heart Medal. After recovering from his wounds, he was assigned to non-combat positions in England and France until the end of the war. He was extremely proud of his participation in The Greatest Generation. He married fellow Marshfield native Alta M. Kuethe in August 1946 in the chapel at Luther Memorial Church in Madison. Don earned his bachelor of science degree in American Institutions from the University of Wisconsin on the G.I. Bill and then taught at Oshkosh Senior High for two years. He was called for active duty in Korea but failed his military physical due to his war wounds. Don moved his family from Oshkosh to Madison in 1952, where he taught at Central High School for 11 years. While teaching, he earned his master of science degree in educational administration at the UW-Madison. He was appointed an assistant principal and later a grade principal at LaFollette High School in Madison and served in those positions for 17 years. As a teacher and administrator he also served as the executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Student Councils for more than a decade, organizing and leading dozens of leadership workshops in Wisconsin and around the country under the auspices of the National Association of Student Councils, and serving as a mentor to countless students and fledgling youth leaders. In June 1980, he retired after 30 years in the field of education. Don enjoyed a wonderful retirement traveling, golfing, and spending time with his children and grandchildren. During his retirement years he served for nearly two decades as president of the Madison Area Retiree Golf Association (MARGA). He and Alta delivered Meals on Wheels for many years and Don continued on after Alta's death in 2003 until 2007. He worked part-time at Oakwood Village West driving the bus and taking residents on various outings. He was recognized in 1999 for his efforts as the first runner-up for the Dane County Older Worker of the Year Award. He continued to be involved in the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators. Don was outgoing and enjoyed life to its fullest with a sense of humor and a deep devotion to family and friends. He was a man of deep and abiding faith and he and Alta were longtime members of Luther Memorial Church where Don served several terms as council president and in various other leadership positions. Don is survived by his son, Keith (Linda) of Waunakee; daughter, Gail (John Conforti) of Fairfax, Va.; granddaughters, Jennifer (Jay) Bjorklund of Westby, and Holly (Aaron) Crowser of Chippewa Falls; grandson, Josh (Beth) Wendt of Madison; great-grandchildren, Luke and Zachary Bjorklund, Andrew and Grace Crowser, and Josie Wendt; his brother, Ted (Margaret) of Louisville, Ky.; and brother-in-law, Gerald Beauchaine of Madison. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Alta; his brother, Bill; and sisters, Betty (Trierweiler) and Ruth (Beauchaine). He also had two stepgranddaughters, Heather (Roger) Nowakowski and Allison (Scott) Lynn of Aldie, Va., and their children Emma and Roger Jr. Nowakowski and Rachel Lynn. A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 30, 2008, at LUTHER MEMORIAL CHURCH, 1021 University Ave., Madison, with Pastor Brad Pohlman officiating. Burial will take place at Hillside Cemetery in Marshfield and at the Columbarium in Luther Memorial Church. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made in Don's name to Luther Memorial Church or The Oakwood Foundation.Cress Funeral & Cremation Service 3610 Speedway Road (608) 238-3434

Originally published in the Wisconsin State Journal on July 29, 2008


Anonymous said...

My sympathies to Mr. Wendt's family. I never had him for a class at Central but I remember him. He did seem like a very positive and happy man and now I know why. He attended Luther Memorial and was a man of deep faith.
It's a shame that it isn't until someone dies that we learn so much about them. I am very impressed and proud to be a graduate of a high school that had a teacher who worked his way up to be a second lieutenant, served in Normandy and earned a purple heart.
If I had known about these things while at Central, they may not have impacted me so much as they do now after serving myself in the Army for 18 months and working for the Army for 22 years as a civilian and a materials engineer, striving to improve our country's defensive capabilities. I can appreciate Mr. Wendt's service much better now!
Finally, as a fellow Lutheran (Our Savior's, Madison), I know that Mr. Wendt had abundant life while here and eternal life in Heaven now!

D Strand said...

I didn't mean to be anonymous. I'm Doug Strand, Central Class of 1965.