Richard Wengert passed away after a nearly three-year battle with cancer.
Dick was born in Fort Wayne Ind. to Hugo and Magdelina Wengert on Nov. 12, 1930. His childhood was full of love, fun and family spending many days up at “the lake.” He went to Concordia High School where he was a member of the first football team, and proudly recalled the first game that they lost 0 to 50! He went on to Purdue University where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Forest Management and upon graduation was drafted into the Army and sent to Korea for two years. One of his final jobs as a sergeant was to give the American servicemen who had been held as prisoners of war in North Korea, U.S. clothing when they walked across the “Freedom Bridge” into South Korea and freedom.
Upon arriving home he married the love of his life, Patricia Kerr Wengert, and together they raised four children as they traveled the United States with Dick’s job as a forester with the US Forest Service.
During his 39-year career with the Forest Service, he inspired hundreds of employees on numerous national forests in resource management practices and conservation. Dick started his Forest Service career as a smokejumper in 1950 and ended his career as forest supervisor of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Upon his retirement it was said that “every aspect of the Daniel Boone NF improved under his administration, including the overall health of the forest, fish and wildlife resources, recreation opportunities and the education and training of young people.”
For 24 years he also served as a member of or as Fire Boss of the National Fire Overhead Team that was used nationwide in wildfire suppression efforts.
Dick was recognized in so many ways they cannot all be listed, but some he was the most proud of were his election as a Fellow in the Society of American Foresters; Forest Conservationist of the Year from the League of Kentucky Sportsmen; Leadership Award for Conservation and Recovery of Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Species on the Daniel Boone NF from the US Department of Agriculture; Certificates of Appreciation from the Kentucky Dept of Fish and Wildlife resources and US Senator McConnell; Leadership Award from the Job Corps; Presidents Award from the Kentucky Forest Industries Association; and, the Conservation Award from the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission.
Upon retirement in 1993, Dick and Pat built a “cabin” on Cave Run Lake that is enjoyed year round by family and friends. They started traveling to Germany to connect with family, and took a yearly motorhome trip to Alaska to enjoy the sights and fishing experiences that only can be found in Alaska.
But, in 1996 forestry pulled at Dick once again and he started a business as a consulting forester. He relished getting out into the woods once again, among nature and the trees that he so loved. He provide woodland owners expert advice in trespass and insure claim cases along with helping them to generate the maximum dollar return from their woodlands while keeping their property aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Dick was a woodworker extraordinaire, building cradles and rocking horses for his grandchildren. He built them toys that two generations have enjoyed. He spent hours with his grandchildren teaching them to respect nature while enjoying it to the fullest.
He was an active lifetime member in the Society of American Foresters, League of Kentucky Sportsmen, Purdue Alumni Association, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the National Rifle Association. He was also a member of Kentucky Forest Industries Association, Kentucky Association of Consulting Foresters, Association of Consulting Foresters of America, National Arbor Day Foundation, American Chestnut Association, Ducks Unlimited and the Korean War Veterans Association.
Dick is survived by his wife Ione, of seven years; daughter Deb Hansen and her family; sons Rich and Bill Wengert and their families; his sister Mary Metzger and her family; as well as his sister-in-law Emma Wengert and her family.
He was preceded in death by his cherished first wife of 48 years, Pat Kerr Wengert; his parents; his dear brother Jack Wengert; and his beloved daughter Cindy Wengert.
Funeral services will be Friday at 11 a.m. at the Rolan G. Taylor Funeral Home, 289 S. Main St., with Pastor Thomas W. Hoyt officiating. Visitation will be Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m at the funeral home. Graveside services and burial will be Saturday at 1 p.m. in the St. John Cemetery in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Contributions may be made to Hospice East, 407 Shoppers Dr., Winchester, KY 40391 or the American Cancer Society, 1500 College Way, Lexington, KY 40502.