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Celebrating the Life of Wendell

March 5, 1941 - June 26, 2011

By Ron Sherry

Ok here we are, all together, to celebrate Wendell’s life.

Dear Heavenly Father, please welcome Wendell into your eternal paradise.

I don’t know about all of you, but these situations always leave me with more questions than answers. My name is Ron Sherry. Wendell is my uncle.

All though Wendell was 20 years older than me, he was in better shape. Wendell ran or swam almost every day. He also did yoga every morning. As a matter of fact yoga is how Wendell figured out he had a problem. He had a difficult time holding positions that he did on a regular basis.

Wendell contacted his doctor and scheduled a CAT scan 10 months ago. He faced a tough situation head on, as Wendell would. He heroically battled this ailment leaving no stone unturned in his quest to find a cure. Wendell was convinced until the very end he would beat cancer.

Wendell was as wise as any man I ever knew. When he knew God was calling him, and it was time for him to go to heaven, he went out with a lot of class. Hours before he died he sat up in bed, asked for a scotch, and spoke to his family for about 15 minutes. He told his family what he wanted to see in the future and how much he loved them. Then he said, “See you later”. 

Wendell knew this was not the end, but only the beginning (as my dad said) of the longest race of his life. This just shows all of us how important it is to keep the big picture in mind. To strive for what is right rather than lettings feelings get in the way. It just shows us how important it is to enjoy every day, look for the good in people, and every situation. Work hard enough so you can play even harder and be loyal to God and family.

Wendell was born on Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia. Shortly after he was born the family moved to Montreal. After living in Montreal for 5 years the family moved to Detroit.

Wendell grew up in Detroit and attended St. Joe’s Catholic High School. St. Joe’s was a very strict all boys school. Wendell took the bus down town to attend St. Joe’s and worked at A&P after school. After high school Wendell attended the University of Detroit. Then after taking some time off to sail, he graduated from Wayne State University with a chemical engineering degree. Wendell was on the sailing team at both schools.

Wendell’s first job was at Wyandotte Chemical. After a strike the plant closed and his job moved to Baton Rouge Louisiana. Wendell hurt his elbow playing tennis, and had to go see the company nurse, who just happened to be Helen. They started dating shortly after. Their first date was on Sept. 15 1965. They went to dinner at the Village Supper Club.

This was the start of a strong bond, stronger than anything they have come up with at Saf T Lok. This was the beginning of a partnership, a true love affair that has stood the test of time. They became a regular couple and drove to work together. They took long walks together and talked about what they wanted out of life. Would you believe they wanted 4 sons and a business of his own to run?

They drove up north to meet the folks. Both were 24 years old and parents on both sides thought they were moving too fast. Wendell and Helen knew what they wanted. They got married and went to Jamaica for their honeymoon. The company they were working for in Baton Rouge got bought out by a company in Wyandotte.

They moved back to Michigan and rented a small apartment. They bought a Flying Dutchman and traveled all over the country racing every weekend. After 6 years of trying, they had their 4 boys. Chris, Brian, Neal, and Shaun, have blessed their lives in more ways than anyone can count.

Wendell was transferred to Europe. The family traveled all over Europe in a VW bus. This was the first time they visited Ireland. They moved back to the U.S. just in time for the company to get bought out again. This time the company was moving out east and the family did not want to move there. Wendell looked for a new job and found work in Chicago. He worked there for 6 years and again the company was bought out.

This time they decided to start their own company. They started out in their basement and now have a 45,000 square foot building to run their business out of. They dropped out of sailing for 7 years to grow the business. They decided it was time to start having fun again and joined Lake Geneva Yacht club. They bought a J-24 and the whole family raced together. I can only imagine the dynamics that took place. Wendell got his first ride in a scow and he was hooked.

Wendell and Helen bought property near Lake Geneva and eventually a cottage. Wendell needed a new hobby. He was always fascinated with astronomy so he built an observatory on the property. Wendell would get up in the middle of the night, go out to the observatory, and spend the night charting stars, systems, galaxies, and nebulas.

One of Wendell’s favorite stories occurred in Vikajarvi, Finland. He went to race ice boats on the 44th weekend of the year with Joerg Bohn from Germany. I could feel his enthusiasm as he described the Northern Lights which he observed from the cockpit of his DN. Joerg and the others were worried because he had disappeared for so long. He was just lying there in his boat, fascinated by the colors and shapes. He called it Mother Nature’s fire works.

I spent a lot of time with Wendell racing ice boats here and in Europe. I was always nervous and constantly working on my equipment. Don’t get me wrong, Wendell was a fierce competitor, but when the day was done he would go out with a different group of sailors every night. He never met a person he didn’t find interesting. His German always got better with a couple of scotches.

In Europe when Wendell would order dinner, he would always ask for blue cheese dressing on his salad. He knew they would not have blue cheese dressing but he would do his best to try to convince the waiter they should stock this wonderful dressing so they could offer it to their customers. I don’t think he really liked blue cheese dressing that much; he just liked getting people to think outside the box. Finally Joerg had enough of Wendell selling the blue cheese dressing idea so he bought a case of dressing while he was in the U.S.

The next time Wendell came to Europe, Joerg would be ready. Joerg hid the dressing in his coat and when Wendell was in the middle of his sales pitch, Joerg would place a fresh bottle of blue cheese dressing on the table. These two were really a hilarious team.

Wendell bought my friend Leon Lebeau a drink and told him how much he loved racing DN ice boats because of the great people, the fun of preparing and building your own equipment, and the fact that a guy of his age can be competitive with the best racers in the world. Wendell is currently ranked 14th in the 2011 International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association ranking list out of 561 ranked sailors.

Early on in this eulogy I spoke of these situations giving me more questions than answers. What helps me get by is the fact that God has prepared a place for us.  An eternal paradise is waiting for us when it is our time and God calls us. Wendell’s family is thankful he is finally at peace. They want to thank everyone for their love, support, and prayers. This was inspirational to him and his family. We are comforted with confidence in the fact Wendell is standing in heaven with family and friends who have gone before us. We believe that he is looking down, guiding and influencing us in our decisions and maybe giving us a puff or shift in life as we need it. May God bless Wendell and all of us.

I believe we can keep Wendell’s spirit alive by talking about him, and telling Wendell stories. Every one has a Wendell story. I believe you can still ask him questions. You just have to listen a little harder for the answers. If we do ask, and we do listen, and we close our eyes and believe we are sitting next to him, he will give us the answer we are looking for.

I would like every one to stand up and repeat after me with all the enthusiasm Wendell deserves.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please welcome Wendell into your eternal paradise.

Thank you for sharing his life with us.

We all love him very much.

Wendell would want us to move on with our lives and let his spirit influence us from time to time. He would want us to work together and love each other just a little more knowing we have to make the most out of every minute we have on this earth. He wants us to know he will be ready to welcome us, when it is our time, and God calls us to heaven.

A favorite Poem of Aunt Helen’s:

Gone From My Sight
By Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight.  That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”  There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: “Here she comes!”