Gale Wenger

Gale Francis Wenger

1932 - 2021

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Obituary of Gale Francis Wenger

Gale Francis Wenger died peacefully on July 9, 2021, at age 89 surrounded by family in her daughter’s home in Minneapolis, MN. Gale moved to MN in August of 2020 from Tucson AZ after the passing of her husband, Harry L. Wenger. Gale was born on July 9, 1932, in Coleta, IL. to Lois and Bill Nicholson. Gale grew up in Coleta, IL and was the third of 4 children, Larry, Faye, and Joanne. Gale grew up on a farm in Coleta in a loving home which she remembered as being good for her and her siblings. She recalled farm cats, an outside dog, picking strawberries. She was especially thrilled to receive a pony, Betsy from her Dad. Betsy was gentle. If Mom fell off, Betsy would stop until she could get back on. She fondly remembered her eldest brother, Larry, bringing home a baby raccoon which they named Oscar and kept hidden in the upstairs bedroom. She and her sisters would dress him up in doll clothes and put him in the doll buggy! Gale was known to hide in the bathroom with a good book to avoid doing the dishes. She was not afraid of hard work on the farm and opted for chores outside since she didn’t like helping with the chickens or in the house. She enjoyed driving an army jeep her Dad purchased to use as a second tractor to help haul hay and oat wagons around the farm. When she was a freshman in high school, her family moved to a home in town above a grocery store where she pitched in to help the family business. It was during her high school years that Gale met her husband, Harry Wenger, at Milledgeville High School. They were in the same class and “went steady” during their junior and senior years. She considered attending the same college as Harry but her Dad said “no, if it is true love it will last”. So, she attended Eureka College in IL and Harry went to Cornell College in Iowa. For Gale’s sophomore year she transferred to Northern State Teachers College in Dekalb, IL and graduated as an elementary teacher. True love did prevail, and over lunch one day, Harry looked at her and said, “Well, shall we make it legal?” and they were engaged in October 1951. They married at the Coleta United Methodist Church in Coleta, IL on August 24, 1952. Gale’s first teaching job was at a one room schoolhouse in Mt. Vernon, IL. She had all 8 grades and had to fire the coal furnace each morning before class. After Harry graduated in 1954 from college and volunteered for the army, Gale found a job in Sterling for the school year of ‘54-’55. Harry was sent to Germany in March of 1955 and Gale joined him there after the school year ended. She really loved traveling and seeing Europe with Harry. After spending 2 years in Germany, Gale and Harry settled in Elgin, IL and raised four children: Mary, Margot, Kay, and Paul. Gale was a devoted wife and a loving mother, and she was happy to be home raising her four children. She was even tempered and took a lot of joy in her family. Gale made a point of making sure that she and Harry brought their children to the farm to see her parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and cousins for Christmas as well as throughout the year. When her parents built a cabin in Woodruff, WI, she was happy to continue that tradition. She and Harry spent most Thanksgivings with Harry’s side of the family and enjoyed seeing them throughout the year as well. During the Elgin, IL years, Gale was happy to have Harry’s mother, Ida, live with her and the family for 12 years. Family connections and time spent together with loved ones was a priority for her. When Harry retired and they moved to Tucson. AZ in 1989, Gale agreed to the move only if they could see their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren each summer and at Christmas. Gale was a fun and caring grandmother and great grandmother. Nothing made her happier than talking, playing and watching over each one of them. She relished each new birth and she made sure to provide all of them with hand sewn terry cloth hooded bath towels, onesie outfits, capes, Halloween outfits and later flannel shirts. If they wanted a custom shirt or fabric, she took custom orders and tailored them to each child. For Christmas she made felt stockings for every family and extended family member and hand embroidered each one with their name. She even made hooded terry cloth towels and a few blankets for her youngest grandchildren, Jesse and Brian, just in case they decided to have a child one day. Gale was a talented and creative seamstress and in addition to reading books this was how she spent much of her time. She began sewing when she was 11 years old. She learned to sew on a pedal sewing machine and started with making clothes for a doll-sized mannequin. She continued sewing throughout her life; she made her own wedding dress, made clothes for her children, Barbie doll outfits, and even did alterations as a home business. For Gale sewing was love. While at St. Marks Church in Tucson, she spearheaded a sewing project called Heart Works. She didn’t like it that children who were taken into care by social services had to carry their belongings in plastic grocery sacks. So, she began to sew carrying bags and had others join her in this project at the church. Each bag was either plain for the teens or decorated with a machine appliqued for the younger children. A cord was encased so they could draw the bag shut and carry it easily. She continued this project through 2017. Gale and Harry were married for 68 years and spent the last 30 years of their life in Tucson, AZ. She accompanied Harry on his photography trips and meticulously kept travel journals to document things they were able to see and do together. They traveled to see family and friends in the Midwest each summer. Gale particularly enjoyed staying in the trailer that they pulled with them. She made sure they had time at each of her children’s homes and that they had time for friends and their siblings as well. When they could, they set the arrival date so Gale could can tomatoes, green beans, and freeze corn to enjoy them at home in Arizona. In Tucson, Gale was a member of the St. Mark’s Methodist Church for 30 years. She enjoyed the early service and counted the tithes on Monday with the Harry and other church members. In addition to longtime friends from her church, she was fortunate to have her sister Faye move to Tucson and then her sister Joanne as well. Between the 3 sisters they cared for Gale’s parents when they could no longer winter in WI and took care of Gale’s mother after her father had died. Another amazing thing about Gale was that she loved life and she escaped an early death at least 9 times! As a baby she had whooping cough and turned blue, so her father turned her upside down and gave her a few whacks on the back which saved her. As a young child she fell into a dog’s mouth and had to be rescued by her grandpa Ralph. As a toddler, she was walking with Grandpa Overholser holding his hand, and he accidently walked her into a corn sheller; she cut her head and cried. At 5 she had scarlet fever along with her brother Larry (10) and they were both quarantined together. At 11, in October of ‘43 she was riding her bike and was hit by a gravel truck. She suffered broken bones and large injury to her lower calf. She was in the hospital for 3 weeks. She had to relearn how to walk but was walking by Christmas. In the summer of 1993, Gale was visiting Margot and Leanne at their home while Dad was camping with Kay in the boundary waters. Mom began coughing up blood and she was transported to St. Antony’s Hospital in Rockford, IL. Luckily there was a guest surgeon who specialized in rare lung conditions on hand who treated her. She nearly died before going to the hospital and again during surgery. She had two-thirds of her one of her lungs removed due to a rare congenital condition. In May of 2018 in Tucson, she fell and broke her femur but made it through surgery and recovered. Then in April of 2019 she shattered the ball of her upper arm bone. Mom would say “God kept throwing me back because he wasn’t done with me yet.” Even in her last days, she waited until her 89th birthday before she passed away. She loved birthday celebrations and her family feels she just wanted to get just one more in! Gale was preceded in death by her parents, Bill and Lois Nicholson, her brother Larry, and her sister Faye. Survivors include her sister Joanne Shortt; her daughters, Mari Powers, Margot Wenger, and Kay Grace (Michael Freeman); her son, Paul Wenger (Pam Perona); her nine grandchildren, (Ben, Matthew (Bridget), Bob, Anne (Nick), Aaron (Ashley), Malik (Meg), Jesse (Tamara), Brian and Adam; and her nine great grandchildren, Emmarie, Aspen, Brianna, Roger, Beckham, Maksim, Miles, Rosalie and Lila. Surviving nieces and nephews include Betty, Sandy, Wilbert (Teresa), Robert (Petrwska), Bill, Sheila (Joe), Andy, John, Jim, Debbie and Larry. Surviving nieces and nephews on the Wenger side include Susan (Dwight), Judy, Glenna (Joe), and Dan. Gale was truly loved by all of her family. Gale is fondly remembered by the members of the St. Marks Methodist Church in Tucson, by her friends Alan and Pat Pohill of Milledgeville and by her neighbor and friend, Maddie Tsursuaki (Cal) and by countless friends throughout her life. Gale Wenger’s memorial will take place at the United Methodist Church in Coleta, IL. on September 11, 2021, officiated by Pastor Joel McClellan. Visitation will begin at 10:00 am, the Memorial Service will begin at 11:00 am. A brief burial will take place following the service at Bethel Cemetery, Otter Creek Drive, Milledgeville, IL. A luncheon at the Coleta Methodist church will take place at 1:00 pm and Gale’s family welcomes you to join us for this meal. Flowers in memory of Gale can be received by the United Methodist Church in Coleta, IL the morning of September 11, 2021.The address is 112 N. Main Street, Coleta, IL. 61081. To view Gale Wenger’s Obituary online, please visit schillingfuneralhome.com.
Saturday
11
September

Visitation

10:00 am - 11:00 am
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Coleta United Methodist Church
112 N. Main St.
Coleta, Illinois, United States
Saturday
11
September

Memorial Service

11:00 am - 11:45 am
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Coleta United Methodist Church
112 N. Main St.
Coleta, Illinois, United States
Saturday
11
September

Burial

12:00 pm - 12:20 pm
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Bethel Cemetery
Otter Creek
Drive Milledgeville, Illinois, United States