Gilda Wernicke(1919 - 2014)

Gilda Vega Wernicke

Gilda Vega Wernicke was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on September 1, 1919, to José Odilio Vega of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and Concepción (Conchita) Iglesias of Utuado, Puerto Rico. Gilda graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor's degree in biology, and then went on to further studies at the School of Tropical Medicine in San Juan, which was affiliated with Columbia University in New York. She worked as a medical technologist for the Department of Health in Puerto Rico.

She met Julius F. Wernicke, Jr., of Pensacola in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, when he was stationed on the island in the Coast Artillery during World War II. The couple married in Pensacola, Florida, after the war, and moved into the Mirador Apartments. Gilda worked then at the Florida State Board of Health as a medical technologist. In addition, she joined the Toastmistress Club and served as its president. She was an active member of St. Paul's Catholic Church, and also of the Hispanic Women's Rosary Group.

At the birth of her first child, Gilda left her medical technology career and became a full-time mother. Soon afterwards, the family moved to a house in a pecan orchard in Ferry Pass. She lived there many years with her husband, raising their five sons and creating many happy memories for them all. During those years she also took care of her mother, who had moved to Pensacola from Puerto Rico. When the Ferry Pass home was sold to become part of University Mall, Gilda moved with her family to the old Wernicke home at Gull Point, where she lived for over 40 years.

Gilda and her husband were instrumental in the 1950's in establishing the fledgling Republican Party here in Pensacola, and went to Chicago in 1960 for the Republican National Convention where Julius was a delegate from Northwest Florida.

Gilda later became a teacher and is remembered fondly by many students from her years of teaching Spanish at both Brownsville Middle School and Woodham High School. In later years, she served as an official interpreter, certified by the United States Government, for the Escambia County court system. She also served for many years on the International Committee at Pensacola Junior College, helping to organize the annual international program. She was a lover of all nature, especially dogs, birds, and bears, and constantly urged others to support worthy causes that would benefit endangered animals.

She is survived by her five loving sons: Michael (Marian) , Frederick (Suzanne), Carl (Patti), Paul and David; three grandchildren: Kristin (Max) Benitez, Timothy Wernicke, and John Wernicke; and by four step-grandchildren: Erin (Dan) Sullivan, Mat (Lana) Kepler, Peter (Rebekah) Porto, and Nathan (Amberly) Porto, and five great-grandchildren: Evan Porto, PJ Porto, Jordan Kepler, Reese Kepler, and her newest great-grandchild, August Michael Benitez, who was born just a few hours before her death. She is also survived by her sister, Olga Covington, and her nephew John Henry Covington.

The family extends special thanks to her devoted caregiver, Twila Lukers, to Kate Wolverton and the other personnel of Carestaff, to all the caring staff at Carpenter's Creek Assisted Living Facility, and to the staff of Regency Hospice, for their kindness and tender care of our mother.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be announced at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Humane Society of Pensacola or the Wildlife Rescue Sanctuary of Northwest Florida would be appreciated.

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Published in Pensacola News Journal from June 19 to June 22, 2014