Tech. Sgt. Melvin W. Wenger, 84, USAF vet, worked for Dutch Country Transport, motorhome traveler

By on January 24, 2018

Melvin “Mel” W. Wenger, the son of a farm laborer who retired from the U.S. Air Force as a technical sergeant, died Sunday, Jan. 14, at his Ephrata home of cardiac arrest. He was 84.

Born in Upper Leacock Township, he was one of seven children of the late Rufus Nolt Wenger and the former Elsie Wanner. He spent much of his childhood at the family home on Skyview Lane in Rothsville until his father died of electrocution shortly after the Great Depression and he was sent to work as a farmhand.

Mr. Wenger, whose family lineage in Lancaster County extends back to the 1720s, was raised in the Mennonite church.

He joined the Air Force as a young man, allowing him to see much of the world. His duty stations included Travis, Calif.; Okinawa, Japan; Newfoundland, Canada; Fort Meade, Md.; and Dover, Del. He attended cooking school at an Air Force base in Alaska.

Assisting in Operation Desert Storm from Dover, Mr. Wenger joined the Air Force Reserve in 1977. He retired from service in 1993.

He drove a tractor-trailer and hauled eggs and other commodities for Dutch Country Transport after becoming a Reservist.

At the Ephrata Fair in 1957, Mr. Wenger met his wife, the former Edra Weaver, who was an aide at Maple Farm nursing home in Akron. They were married for nearly 40 years until her death in 1997. The couple, which had four children, lived in Baltimore and Ephrata before buying and restoring an historic house on a Lititz cul-de-sac.

Mr. Wenger bought a motorhome, his most prized possession, after his wife’s death. He traveled to Florida frequently and was always dreaming of his next trip. He spent lazy summer days picking raspberries with his grandchildren when they were young, had a laugh to fill up the room, hogged the salt shaker at family dinners, and was forever proud to show off old photos of his wife, a former beauty queen he once worked up the courage to ask for a dance.

“My grandfather was a kind man who lived a simple life, enjoying nothing more than a holiday celebration, surrounded by his family,” said Yvonne Nordstrom, the eldest of his grandchildren. “From humble beginnings, he proudly served in the Air Force and left this world as the patriarch of a strong family that will cherish the memories they made together.”

Survivors include three sons: M. Gary (Mary Pat) of Lititz; Jeffrey (Michelle) of Ephrata; and Russell (Corrine) of Lititz; brothers: Luke “Mike” (Nancy) of Ephrata; and Harold (Cora) of Denver; and a sister: Martha (Charles) Kirchner, of Lancaster. He is also survived by eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

In addition to his wife, he was preceded in death by a daughter: Cora (Mike) Bare; two brothers: Eugene and Paul; and a sister: Leah “Betty” Burkhart.

Services were held Jan. 22 at Stradling Funeral Home, Ephrata. Burial was at Cedar Hill Cemetery, Ephrata.

Arrangements by Stradling Funeral Homes, Inc., Akron/Ephrata. Online condolences can be given at stradlingfuneralhome.com.

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