Wehenkel Sr., 93
OXFORD / DAYTONA BEACH, FL - Walter C. Wehenkel Sr., age 93, of Daytona Beach, Florida and formerly of Oxford, Massachusetts died June 26, 2013.
He leaves a daughter, Barbara Lafleche of Holly Hill, Florida, with whom he lived; a son, Walter Jr. (Carol) of Port Clinton, Ohio; seven grandchildren, (Michael Kiley, Kevin Kiley, James Kiley, Marie Wehenkel, Walter Wehenkel III, Christopher Kiley and Michael Jones; seven great grandchildren; one sister; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, Blanche; his daughter, Sharon, and one grandson, Oscar DeJesus Zea, Jr.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York, son of Emil and Barbara (Pfister) Wehenkel. He left New York at age 18 and joined the navy, serving eight years. He participated in the North Atlantic convoy duty before Pearl Harbor and patrolled the harbor at the North Atlantic Charter between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill. In January of 1942 his ship left Boston to join the Pacific fleet for convoy and submarine detection patrol. In 1943 he was transferred back to Newport News, Virginia to join the crew for the new aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet CV12. At that time he got married in Worcester, Mass, the home of his wife. While serving aboard the Hornet, he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. In 1944 he returned to Long Beach, California to become part of the crew for a new attack troop transport where he served as Chief in charge of damage control. He returned to the Pacific with troops aboard for the invasion of Okinawa. When VJ Day was declared, his ship was in San Francisco waiting to load on marines for the invasion of Japan. His wartime decorations included a "Bronze A" for belligerent contact with Axis forces prior to December 7, 1941, plus four battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. In September of 1945 he was honorable discharged in Boston and made his home in Worcester, Massachusetts.
After the war, he was a plumber for M.D. Holmes & Sons. He moved to Oxford in 1949. He continued to be involved in the naval reserve and served as an instructor and Chief Recruiting Officer. In 1956 he was placed on temporary active duty as Chief Recruiter for the Naval Reserve. In 1957 he was named the State's navy winner of the Reserve Officer's Association Recruiting Award. He was the only central Massachusetts' recruiter to win one of these awards, given to the top recruiters in the Army, Navy and Air Force Reserves. He also received a commendation from City Manager Francis McGrath at the ceremony.
Mr. Wehenkel was a community leader in Oxford, serving as the Civil Defense Director for 7½ years and served in that capacity during the flood in 1955. At that time, with the town without any electricity, he notified the state Civil Defense Agency that he needed a shipment of dry ice and a tanker truck full of drinking water. Oxford was the first town in the area to receive a shipment of dry ice, which was distributed to the homes in Oxford that saved their frozen food supplies. He was instrumental in obtaining the first two-way radio system for the town and two large generators, one for the town hall and the other for the Clara Barton School, which would serve for mass housing and feeding in the event of an emergency. This was accomplished through the Civil Defense Matching Funds program. He also obtained thousands of dollars of government surplus equipment for the town.
He served as chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, the Oxford Town By-law Committee, the High School Building Committee and the Larned Entertainment Fund. He was a member of the Sewer Survey Committee and the School Needs and Site Committee. He was a past-president of the Oxford Police Association and a member of the Massachusetts Police Association, a past-commander of the Oxford VFW post and co-founder and a past-president of the Oxford Parent Teacher Association. As president of the PTA he initiated the Clara Barton Essay Contest. He was a team captain for the fund raising committee involved in the building of the Hubbard Regional Hospital and served as a Corporator for the hospital for a number of years. He was an Oxford police officer for twenty-nine years and received a Certificate of Attendance in 1953 to the Law Enforcement Officers Training School that was sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In that same year when Worcester was hit with a tornado, he and Officer Robert O'Connell put on their police uniforms to assist the Worcester Police. They were assigned to a Worcester lieutenant and with him patrolled through the affected areas throughout the night. He also served as the Board of Health agent until his retirement in 1981.
He was employed by the Worcester Housing Authority as a plumber foreman and was chosen by the Massachusetts' Department of Community Affairs to sponsor plumbing clinics for the instruction of employees of small elderly housing authorities around the State. He was a past-president of the Worcester Plumbers Union Local #4.
At his retirement party he was presented with the Selectman's Award for Outstanding Service to the Town of Oxford. After his retirement Mr. Wehenkel moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and then to Palm Coast, Florida where he lived for sixteen years. During that time he was an active life member with the VFW Post 8696 and a charted member of the Elks Lodge. He also served for twelve years as a member of the Board of Directors with the Palm Coast Chapter of AARP. He moved from Palm Coast inland to a retirement community in Sebring, Florida where he became an active member of the Highlands County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #99 and the American Legion Post #69 of Avon Park. He then relocated to Daytona Beach, Florida.
His epitaph will read "He served Oxford and his country well.
A funeral will be held on Monday, July 1, 2013, from Paradis Funeral Home, 357 Main St., Oxford, followed by a Mass at 11 a.m. at St. Roch's Church, 332 Main St., Oxford. Burial will follow at North Cemetery in Oxford. Calling hours are Sunday, June 30, 2013, from 7-9 p.m. at the funeral home. Memorial contributions in his name may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105-1942, or to Vitas Innovative Hospice Care, 2381 Mason Ave., Daytona Beach, Florida 32117.
Paradis-Givner Funeral Home
357 Main St
Oxford, MA 01540
Published in Worcester Telegram & Gazette from June 28 to June 29, 2013