WALTER HOWARD "WALT" WENDLAND, JR. ~ Class of 1955
July 12, 1937 - October 8, 2015
Walt died peacefully at home on October 8, 2015. He was 78 years old. He was born to Walter, Sr. and Nancy Saunders Wendland in Purdy, Missouri, on July 12, 1937, at the Stone's Prairie Parish parsonage. Family lore has it that Walt was so small that he was placed in a dresser drawer. He grew and thrived as the family eventually moved to Farley, Missouri, and Murdock, Nebraska, where he spent summers baling hay, eating steak, and creating lasting friendships.
In 1951 - during his teen years - his family relocated to Richland when his father became pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church. He enrolled at Col-Hi and became a Bomber.
After graduating with the Class of 1955, Walt enlisted in the Navy and served on two aircraft carriers that traveled to Japan, the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He had many adventures and made dear, lifelong friends.
Walt liked to say that “he got a good one” when he met and married the love of his life, Ginny Weyerts. On their first date, Walt and Ginny went to Ray’s Tahitian Room for tea, and Walt ordered coffee. They dated for a little less than a year and were married on May 23, 1959.
His pride and joy were his children. Kenny was born in July, 1960, Annie in August, 1962, and Nancy in November, 1963. Favorite family memories include: tickle fights, camping, go-carting, playing in the padded cell at the police station, target shooting, lighting off smoke bombs from Warshall’s & firecrackers confiscated from unknown juveniles, and going out to eat—especially at the Tri-Cities first McDonald’s after helping to clean the church on Friday nights.
In 1960, Walt joined the Richland Police Department. He was a traffic officer, the first youth guidance officer, a detective, and a detective sergeant. He helped in many ways, but his passion and calling was to help children—not just those in abusive homes, but also the teens that he arrested. He was famous for arresting juveniles and then taking them out for ice cream. He always said that they were basically good kids who just got in with the wrong crowd. Walt had a gift for seeing the humanity in every person.
He was also known for his practical jokes like "forgetting" his wallet when the check came, pulling over his kids’ friends with his squad car, "forgetting" the keys to his handcuffs, and more antics than we’re allowed to mention here... he loved to make people laugh with his hysterical police department stories!
During his time on the force, Walt had the privilege of working with the Secret Service to protect Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford when they came to the Tri-cities for speaking engagements. President Ford’s bodyguard even dined at Walt’s house.
After serving with the RPD for 21 years, Walt retired and started his own photography business. Together, Walt and Ginny photographed over 900 weddings and countless senior, family, and reunion pictures. He had an artist’s eye for spotting great scenery to shoot and enjoyed displaying and selling his artwork.
He served at Redeemer Lutheran Church for 63 years serving at various times as an elder, custodian, and youth leader. (It was well known by the children at Redeemer that Walt always carried plenty of Juicy Fruit gum and was generous in sharing it!) He also had a beautiful bass voice and sang in the choir beginning when he was 15 years old until about a week before his death.
He was cherished by his family, adored by his friends, appreciated by his community, and he will be missed.
Walt was preceded in death by his father and mother, Reverend Walter Wendland, Sr. and Nancy Saunders Wendland.
He is survived by his loving wife of 57 years, Ginny Weyerts Wendland ('54); their children: Kenneth Walter ('78)(Jacque), Annie ('80)(Bob) Nash, and Nancy ('82)(John) Feehrer; grandchildren: Hayley, Kyle, Marcus, Sharon, Noe, Derek, Nate, Tim, and Izzie; great granddaughter, Ellisa; sister, Betty ('54) (Bob) George; sister- and brother-in-law, Lois Weyerts Harrold ('56) and Larry Harrold ('56); and many nieces and nephews. Walt considered many people "family" without checking DNA. His "adoptive" extended family is too numerous to list.
During the last 10 months of Walt’s life, many caregivers became part of his loving circle of friends. They were greatly appreciated by both Walt and Ginny.
A memorial celebration of Walt’s life was held on October 16, 2015, at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Richland. (A family graveside service was held earlier at Sunset Memorial Gardens.)
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Redeemer Lutheran Church, "Walter Wendland Choir Memorial", 520 Thayer Drive, Richland, WA 99352.
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