Kenneth Lee Wendzel, 91, of Benton Harbor went to be with his Heavenly Father on July 14, 2023 while surrounded by his loving family.
Kenneth “Ken” was born on Nov. 28, 1931, in Watervliet to the late Robert and Pauline (Roekle) Wendzel. He was a lifelong resident of Bainbridge Township and graduated salutatorian from Watervliet High School in 1949. He attended Kalamazoo College for a year before he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952. He attended basic training at what is now Fort Gordon, in Georgia where he trained to be a radio operator. He was assigned to ship FS-212 in Fort Eustis, Virginia where he served until he was honorably discharged. After his discharge he farmed two years in partnership with his father and his brother Alton.
In 1956, he married Leola Weston, and they purchased an 80-acre farm where they raised their five children. During his lifetime he served as president of the Penn Yan grade school until it consolidated with Watervliet Public Schools. In 1960 Ken went back to college at Indiana University to study income tax preparation and proceeded to run his own tax consulting business for 42 years. For 20 years, he also worked summers as a field man for Greg Orchards and Coloma Frozen Foods. In 1977, he sold the farm in order to concentrate on his tax business.
Ken was elected a Berrien County commissioner in 1969 and served residents of his district for 30 years, including 20 years as chairman of the finance committee. As a commissioner, he worked to bring the Michigan State University Southwest Michigan Research and Extension to its current location in Berrien County. He also served as a member of the Berrien County Building Authority and was a lifelong member of Farm Bureau, as well as the Michigan State Horticultural Society.
A member of Salem Lutheran Church, Ken served as a Sunday school teacher as well as treasurer and president of the congregation. In 1981, he and his wife Leola transferred to Grace Lutheran Church where he served on the endowment committee and head usher for the 8 a.m. service. In his free time, he enjoyed attending his grandchildren’s activities and sporting events and also enjoyed playing golf and fishing with his brother Alton.
Ken is survived by his loving wife of nearly 67 years, Leola; daughters, Debra (Jerrold) Grieser of Benton Harbor, Lois Wendzel of Benton Harbor, Kimberlee (Douglas) Lane of Watervliet; twin sons Thomas (Nancy) Wendzel of Benton Harbor and Timothy (Kimberly) Wendzel of Rexburg, Idaho; brother Alton (Mildred) Wendzel of Watervliet; twelve grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, as well as many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Pauline Wendzel; brothers, Walter and Norman Wendzel; and sisters, Eleanor Klug, Luella Winkel and Virginia Brewer.
A visitation was held on July 19 at Starks Family Funeral Homes in St. Joseph. Pastor Joshua Bishop will officiate the Celebration of Life service on Thursday, July 20, 11 a.m., at Grace Lutheran Church, in St. Joseph. Military Rites will be conducted at the church by the North Berrien Military Rites Team, following the Celebration of Life. Those wishing to sign Ken’s Memory Book online may do so at www.starks-menchinger.com.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Grace Lutheran Church and Caring Circle of St. Joseph or North Berrien Senior Center in Coloma. The family would like to thank the staff at Woodland Terrace for the loving care Ken received during his stay.