Walter G. Wendte, 93, of rural Altamont died unexpectedly at approximately 7:30 p.m. at home on Friday, September 25, 2015, surrounded by family. Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m., Monday, September 28, 2015, at St. Paul (Blue Point) Lutheran Church, rural Altamont with Rev. David Speers officiating. Visitation will be held at 5 8 p.m. Sunday, and for one hour prior to service time. Memorials may be made to St. Paul (Blue Point) Lutheran Church Modernizing Fund, Lutheran Hour, Lutheran Care Center or the donor’s choice. Gieseking Funeral Home, Altamont is assisting the family with arrangements.
Walter was born on May 14, 1922, at home on the family farm about nine miles south of Dieterich, Illinois, to Walter and Ella (Haack) Wendte. He was baptized on June 18, 1922, at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in rural Dieterich, Illinois, and confirmed at the same church on May 31, 1936. Walter received his elementary education at a one-room grade school that he walked to a few miles from the homestead. He later attended three years of high school in Dieterich where he played on the basketball team. Because Dieterich only offered a three year program, Walter spent his senior year at Effingham High School where he graduated in 1940 as valedictorian of his class. Deciding to leave the farm, Walter attended a business college in St. Louis, and after graduation, took a job with the local firm of Hussmann Refrigeration. His business career was cut short, however, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 as the fighting in World War II intensified.
Walter took basic training at Camp Barkeley, Abilene, Texas, but then later transferred into the brand new Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), which was a military training program instituted to meet wartime demands for soldiers with technical skills. This led him to an intensive educational program at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, however, the program, was abruptly cancelled following D-Day in 1944, and Walter was assigned to Company E 302, of the 94th Infantry Division.
After landing on Utah Beach in France in late August, 1944, Walter and the 94th Division, which were attached to the Third Army led by General George Patton, were stationed in the Saint-Nazaire – Lorient area of France during the Battle of the Bulge. By that time, Walter had attained the rank of Staff Sergeant and served as a squad leader in the first platoon of Company E. After fierce fighting in the hedgerows of northern France, the 94th Division and Patton’s Third Army began their advance through eastern France and into Germany.
It was during this advance that Walter earned the Bronze Star and two marksmanship medals. He was also awarded the Purple Heart for wounds he suffered from a sniper attack during house to house fighting in the Saar-Moselle Triangle. But it was also during this time, during a lull in the fighting, while Walter’s squad was enjoying a well-earned rest in a small German town, when he and a few of his squad members with similar farm backgrounds, “liberated” a small steer, butchered it and feasted on steaks. To top it off, Walter even baked a cherry pie for his comrades – his mother would have been proud.
Walter was discharged from the U.S. Army on December 31, 1945, and he returned to Effingham County. Even though he said he would never do it, he decided to return to farming. As he later recounted to his sons, after three years in the Army, he had grown so tired of taking orders that he was ready to do something where he could make his own rules and answer to no one but the Lord.
Having met Doris Wachtel, his soon to be wife, at his cousin Betty (Haack) Wachtel’s wedding, they later married on January 28, 1951, at St. Paul (Blue Point), Lutheran Church, Altamont, Illinois. They rented a small house located a mile north of where Doris grew up and started to build their farm. They began with approximately 200 acres of rented land, one tractor, a plow, disk, harrow and three milking shorthorns that Doris had bought with her earnings from working as a secretary and bookkeeper in Effingham. Over the years, Walter raised cattle, sheep and chickens, and grew corn, soybeans and wheat.
Walter was a member of, and served in various officer positions with, St. Paul (Blue Point) Lutheran Church, the St. Paul Men’s Club, and the Lutheran Laymen’s League. He was also a member of the Effingham County Farm Bureau and American Legion Post #120, and served for 50 years as the Town Clerk of Moccasin Township, Effingham County, Illinois. Walter was also an avid bowler and tried never to miss a Wednesday night of bowling even during planting and harvest seasons. In April of this past year, he was honored with an open house appreciation event for his many years of service on the Effingham County Extension Center Building Association.
He is survived by his wife of over 64 years, Doris Wendte of Altamont; sons, Leon (Jane) Wendte of Shumway, Keith (Sharon) Wendte of Willowbrook, Dennis (Denyce) Wendte of Glen Ellyn and Roy (Christine) Wendte of Altamont; brother, Irvin (Onda) Wendte of Effingham; brothers-in-law, Larry Wachtel of Sherman and Dale (Shirley) Wachtel of Shumway; nine grandchildren, Terri (Brent) Hummel, Aaron (Lori) Wendte, Sara Wendte, Nathan Wendte, Rachel Wendte, Ellen Wendte, Lydia (Adam) Holste, Faith Wendte and Chase Wendte; 2 great grandchildren, Jack Wendte and Mary Hummel; three step grandchildren, Andy (Dannon) Kietzman, Katie Kietzman and Matthew (Stephanie) Kietzman; and three step great grandchildren, Aiden Holste, and Autumn and Anika Kietzman
He was preceded in death by his parents, sister and brother-in-law, Betty and Raymond Reiss, brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Kenneth and Betty Wachtel, daughter-in-law, Karen Wendte, grandson, Eric Wendte and brother-in-law, Donald Richard Wachtel in infancy.
Online condolences may be expressed at www.giesekingfh.com