William Wenger, Sr., 86 / Jan. 3, 1924 — Oct. 26, 2010

Published 2:30 am Wednesday, October 27, 2010

William E. Wenger, Sr., 86, of Niles, passed away at 1:43 a.m. Oct. 26, 2010 surrounding by family in his home after an extended illness.

He was born Jan. 3, 1924 in Grand Rapids, Mich. to Fred and Grace Wenger. William “Bill” spent the majority of his earlier years in southwest Michigan, where he was raised and educated.

William Wenger, Sr., 86

William Wenger, Sr., 86

In 1940, at age 16, he enlisted in the United States Navy. He was stationed aboard the USS Hull in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii during the attack Dec. 7, 1941 that started World War II. He continued to serve through the conclusion of the war and the end of the Korean Conflict. During this time in the service he completed courses at the United States Armed Forces Institute and also correspondence work with Indiana University.

Following his military career, Bill was employed by Bendix Aerospace of Mishawaka, Ind. At that time, he also began to provide engineering firms with consulting on product applications. During this time he founded William E. Wenger and Associates, where he retired in 1989. His passion for knowing how things work continued outside the office, as he had many skills in electrical and woodworking, building boats, campers and gifts for his many friends and family other the years.

Bill was proud to be an American veteran first and foremost. He was asked often to lecture upon his retirement to local schools and civic clubs on the days and events surrounding Pearl Harbor. He was the recipient of many news articles on his experience during that time and the annual anniversaries of Dec. 7, 1941.

In 2004, Bill was contacted by and agreed to meet with President George W. Bush during his campaign stop at Niles High School. In 2006, he traveled to Hawaii for the 65th anniversary of the attack with his wife and daughter, addressing national news reporters on the importance of keeping America alert and ready and what sacrifices his generation made for the country.

In Niles, Bill was an active member of Saint Mary Catholic Church and a volunteer and founding member of Straw Hats, a swing-jazz band of seniors performing for seniors at local events and nursing homes for many years until his health declined.

On Jan. 5, 1947 in Benton Harbor, he married the former Margaret Kosbar, with whom he celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary this year.

Surviving family include his wife, Margaret, and their children, daughter Janet and Donald Padgett of Niles, daughter Jean Wenger of Niles, daughter Kay and John Allumi of Lincoln Park, Mich., son James and Leslie Wenger of Niles, daughter Susan and Jeffery Schmuhl of South Bend, and son Ronald and Laurie Wenger of South Bend; nine grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a daughter Judith; a son, William E. Wenger, Jr.; and two brothers.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for William E. Wenger, Sr. on Friday, Oct. 29, 2010 at 11 a.m. at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Niles with the Rev. David Otto officiating.

Committal rites with military honors will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Niles.

The family will receive friends and guests from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Halbritter Funeral Home in Niles with the recitation of the Rosary at 8 p.m.

The family wishes to thank Hospice at Home and our care companions Laurie, Alice, Ruth, Markita and Rochelle and also the many friends who donated their time to making this journey a peaceful one.

Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to Hospice at Home of Buchanan and the Area Agency on Aging of Berrien County.