Walter W. Wendt, age 97, passed away peacefully March 26, in his own home. Walter was born August 18, 1918, and grew up on Two Sisters Lake on Northern Woods Resort, which his parents operated for many years. He attended grade school in a one room school house built specifically for him and his brother Malcolm.
He graduated from Rhinelander High School in 1936. Walter wanted to see the world so he enlisted in the US Navy in May, 1939, before there was any thought of war. He was assigned to the USS Helena in September 1939 and found himself at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. His ship was one of the first to be torpedoed on that fateful day. He survived the attack and continued to serve our nation proudly for the duration of the war. He participated in many sea battles in the South Pacific. He stayed with the Helena until it was sunk in Kula Gulf on July 6, 1943, giving up his life jacket to a shipmate who couldn’t swim. He spent the night swimming with the sharks until he was rescued. He was then transferred to the USS Houston, which was torpedoed and heavily damaged on October 11, 1944. The crew was ordered to abandon ship, but Walter stayed on board with 100 of the crew and was instrumental in keeping the ship afloat until it could be towed to port several weeks later.
For his heroism on the Houston, he received the Bronze Star from Admiral “Bull” Halsey. He was proud of achieving the rank of Chief Machinist Mate before he was discharged from the Navy in September 1945. Those years in the Navy and WWII shaped his life, and those memories never left him.
After his discharge from the Navy, Walter returned to McNaughton. A few years later he purchased the Northern Woods Resort from his parents, who had the resort since 1908. He maintained the resort until he was in his 90’s. During the years he operated the resort, he made countless friends and brought much joy and fond memories to the many people who vacationed there.
A lifelong resident of McNaughton, Walter was a local legend, known and beloved by so many. He is known for his wisdom, his love of people, his kindness, his independence and self reliance, his sense of humor, and of course, his vast array of jokes. He loved his woods, and his wildlife. He embraced life and lived it to the fullest. He will live on in our hearts and our memories.
Walter was preceded in death by his wife Ina Wendt, parents Ernest and Susan Wendt, brothers Malcolm Wendt, and Edgar (Belle) Wendt, daughter-in-law Patricia Lindman, and son-in-law Robert Rumpf. He is survived by his sister Georganna Johanski; nephews Bruce (Jean) Wendt, Warren Wendt, Gary Johanski, and Dennis (JoAnn) Johanski; nieces Kim (Owen) Gassaway, Julie (Jim) Meloy, and Tammi Wiedeman, and sons-in-law, Howard Lindman and David Rumpf. Also very dear friends Judy Durkee Peter and Ann Marie Patek.
Walter’s wish was to remain in the home that he built himself, until his last breath. There are many who made that possible. First and foremost, eternal gratitude to Judy Durkee Peter who did so much for Walt in his later years, too much to enumerate here. Special thanks to Ann Marie Patek, Walter’s “Tuesday Girl” who faithfully drove him to town every week for over 20 years to do errands. Walter’s family would also like to thank the entire staff from Loving Touch Home Care. Very special thanks to caregiver Linda Bielefeldt, whose care and compassion for Walt far exceeded our expectations. Thanks also to Todd, RN, with Ministry Hospice, who provided guidance to Walters caregivers and made final days peaceful.
In lieu of flowers, donations to Wild Instincts (www.wildinstinctsrehab.com) would be appreciated. Walter loved wildlife and they are a local organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured wildlife. Donations to Old Glory Honor Flight (www.oldgloryhonorflight.org) would also be appreciated. They made if possible for Walter to visit the WWII memorial in Washington and to join other Pearl Harbor survivors on a special honor flight to Hawaii.
The funeral service for Walt will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 2, 2016, at the Carlson Funeral Home. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 1, 2016, at the Carlson Funeral Home and from 10 a.m. until the time of service on Saturday. Interment will take place in the Newbold Memorial Cemetery. You may leave your private condolences for the Wendt family at www.carlsonfh.com. The Carlson Funeral Home(715-369-1414) is handling the arrangements for the Wendt family.