September 1, 1936 – August 21, 2023
Mary Jane Wendel of Lander, WY, passed away on Monday, August 21, 2023, at Banner Health Medical Center in Casper, WY. She was 86 years old.
Mary was born on September 1, 1936, in Yuma, CO, to Alvin Ross and Leta Jane (Beverly) McDaniel. At the age of 16, she moved to Cheyenne, WY, to stay with family friends until she graduated high school. She graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1958 with a degree in Elementary Education and Library Sciences.
Mary met her husband, Frederick R. Wendel, during college, while he was stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, in Cheyenne. The couple was married in Pasadena, CA on August 9, 1958. They lived in Cheyenne, WY and Inglewood, CA before settling in Fred’s hometown of Santa Barbara, CA, where they started and raised their family. They retired in Lander, WY.
Mary’s career as a teacher and librarian spanned over 50 years. She started as an elementary school teacher, serving as school librarian and then district librarian before returning to the classroom. She “retired” in 1989, when they moved to Lander. However, she continued to serve as a substitute teacher and librarian for another 21 years, and usually worked 3-5 days a week.
Mary was an avid volunteer her entire life. She believed in service before self and she demonstrated that belief everyday. She was instrumental in acquiring the land and raising funds for the current Lander Library. She served on the Library Board, on the Library Foundation Board, was a member of Lander Library Friends Association, was the first clerk for the Foundation and volunteered at the Book Nook.
Mary’s other major passion in retirement was for the Methodist Thrift Shop, where she could be found 4-5 days a week, working with the donated books. She also coordinated the Christmas House and stocked the warehouse every week.
Mary loved to sing, it was her favorite way to worship God. She was a member of the church choirs in Santa Barbara and Lander. She was a member of the Choral Corral in Santa Barbara and the Choir at Central Wyoming College.
Mary was a member of Epsilon Sigma Alpha during college, and a member of professional organizations Delta Kappa Gamma, Phi Beta Kappa, California Teachers Association and National Educators Association. She held offices in these organizations as well as Christian Women’s Club, Sunrise Investment Club and United Methodist Women. She also volunteered with Santa Barbara Counseling Center’s Crisis Hotline, American Cancer Society’s Daffodil Days, Challenge for Charities, and reading to people at Wyoming State Training School. She could often be heard on the radio, plugging one of her favorite charities on “Coffee Time”, and frequently had her picture in the Lander Journal for the same causes. Her family affectionately called her a “local celebrity”.
Mary received numerous awards for her professional and volunteer service throughout her life, but the one she was most humbled by, and her family is most proud of, was the Jefferson Award, The Nobel Prize for Volunteerism.
Mary was preceded in death by her parents Alvin Ross and Leta Jane, brother John “Sandy”, sister Joyce, niece Kathleen, brothers-in-law John and Russ, daughter-in-law Jackie and her beloved husband of 62 years, Fred.
Mary is survived by her four children, Kim, Kirk and Brett of Lander, WY, and Jud (TJ) of Portland, OR; Grandchildren, Kiayah, David, Frederick, Stuart, Joy, Adam, Ahni, Kiran and Shawn; Great Grandchildren, Davey and Alaya; Sister-in-law Marion Kirbey of San Diego and nine nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at Lander United Methodist Church on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 at 4:00 pm. This date was originally the 11th of September, but has since been changed.
Funeral arrangements were provided by Hudson’s Funeral Home in Lander, WY.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Mary’s name to the Lander Library or the United Methodist Women.