BRUNSWICK, ME -- The Reverend Kenneth Wentzel died unexpectedly on Feb. 21, 2012 in Brunswick at the age of 88.
A huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, Benny Goodman, donkeys, Portland SeaDogs Baseball, and chocolate chip cookies, Ken resided in Topsham with his wife of 35 years, Ruth (Hendrick) Wentzel, and two corgis.
The eldest of three children, Ken was born in Dayton, Ohio on Oct. 17, 1923 to Clarence and Julia (Hofferberth) Wentzel.
After graduating from Elmhurst College in Illinois in 1946, he entered Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis with the goal of completing the three-year Master of Divinity program. In the midst of this he was tapped by Church World Service to travel to postwar Germany, where he was responsible for coordinating distribution of humanitarian aid in Wiesbaden. During this year-long stay Ken married Constance (Connie) White. Returning to the United States in 1949, he was ordained at St. John's Evangelical & Reformed Church in Dayton.
In his 40 years of ministry in four different parishes (Mishawaka, Ind.; Rockville, Md.; Kingston, R.I.; Arlington, Mass.), Ken was actively involved in a number of civic and religious organizations committed to ecumenism and human rights and was a passionate advocate for racial equality, participating in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington in 1963.
Ken was also instrumental in starting two Hospice organizations in New England. His interest in the Hospice movement began in 1973 when he took sabbatical leave to serve as Visiting Chaplain at St. Christopher's Hospice in London, one of the pioneering centers in the movement. Ken later helped to found Hospice Care of Rhode Island in 1976 and Hospice Care, Inc. of Arlington, Mass. in1979. In 1980 he authored To Those Who Need It Most, Hospice Means Hope.
In 1989 Ken retired as Pastor Emeritus of Pleasant Street Congregational Church in Arlington and moved with Ruth to her home state of Maine. There he indulged in his favorite pastimes of gardening, listening to jazz, reading, and reveling in every possible sporting event with family and close friends.
While Ken continued his pastoral activities on an occasional basis as a guest minister at local churches, his primary focus in later life was volunteerism. He was a regular helper at local area soup kitchens and at the Tedford Homeless Shelter in Brunswick. Up until his death, he was active with Literacy Volunteers of America.
Ken was tireless in his public support for peace, tolerance, and justice. Among his many awards, his most treasured was The Reinhold Niebuhr Servanthood Award 'to honor his outstanding service to humanity,' which he received from Eden Seminary in 1990.
In addition to Ruth, Ken is survived by his children, Andrew Wentzel and wife Karen Nickell of Knoxville, Tenn., Stanley Wentzel and wife Martha Rothe, Margaret Wentzel and husband Todd Black, all of Seattle, Wash., Jennifer Doherty and husband Dan Doherty of Brunswick, Eliza Nelson and husband Alex Nelson of Portland, Ore. He also leaves behind his sister Frances Headings of Ft. Wayne, Ind., brother Paul Wentzel of Cincinnati, Ohio; and eight grandchildren, Julia, Noah, Forrest, Sophia, Henry, Calvin, Abe, and Emil.
A service honoring the life of Rev. Kenneth Wentzel will be held at 2:00 PM on Sat., May 5, 2012 at First Parish Church, 207 Maine St, Brunswick, ME. All are welcome.