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Friday, May 11, 2012

Tamaqua's George Wenzel Died

May 10, 2012
George Wenzel Jr. passed away peacefully on Thursday in Gnaden Huetten Hospital, Lehighton.

George was born in Coaldale, April 23, 1925, a son of George W. and Anna Tomko Wenzel. He graduated from Coaldale High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society and the football team. George would want you to know that in 1942 Coaldale beat Tamaqua; he would not want you to know they lost to Lansford.

At the age of 8, he began delivering baked goods from his parents' kitchen in Coaldale. This was the beginning of a family business that expanded to Tamaqua, Lansford and for several years, Mahanoy City, Pottsville and Allentown. Wenzel's Bakery closed in 2006. During this span, his parents, siblings, other family members and many other who became "family" contributed to the success of the business.

In 1943, George enlisted in the Army and served in World War II in the Pacific Theater. He was expecting to be part of the force destined to invade the Japanese mainland when the war suddenly came to an end. He became a member of the U.S. occupation force serving in Asahigawa, a mining town on the Japanese Island of Hokkaido. Before leaving the military in 1946, he attained the rank of sergeant.

After returning from the service, George attended baking school at Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis, Minn., and continued in the family business. During the late '50s, George and his brother, Bill, managed Wenzel's Auditorium on Center Street in Tamaqua, a combination dance hall and roller skating rink. During this time, Wenzel's attracted local singers and bands, as well as some of the more prominent name of the emerging Rock and Roll era, including, Jimmy Clanton, Fabian and Jimmy Rock. Wenzel's Auditorium closed in 1963 and became a bakery after the fire of 1980 destroyed the bakery building on Broad Street.

George was active in local politics and served on the Tamaqua Borough Council for over 20 years, several of them as council president. He was also a past president and active member of the Tamaqua chapter of Rotary International, where he had a record of attendance for over 50 years. He was also a past president of the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce, a member of the TIDE board and a member of the Elks, the American Legion and the Tamaqua Historical Society. In 1991, he was honored by the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce as Citizen of the Year.

George was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Elizabeth; brothers, William and Robert; and his youngest son, Lee.

George is survived by his wife of 63 years, Nellie Verbickas Wenzel; son, George III; daughter, Mary Karen Shoff; son-in-law, Glenn Shoff; sisters-in-law, Janis Jones Wenzel and Carol Karnes Wenzel; nephews, Richard Krepak, William and Frank Wenzel; nieces, Suzanne Krepak Krell, Ann Wenzel Jones, Janis Wenzel Reimiller, Betsy Wenzel Morgan, Sharon Wenzel Van Buskirk and Christine Wenzel Lesisko.

The family requests that donations be sent to The Tamaqua Rotary Club or to The Howard Buehler Memorial Park (The Bungalow)

Private services will be held at the convenience of the family. Friends may call from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Zizelmann-Roche Funeral Home, 500 E. Broad St., Tamaqua. To view the online guest registry, please Zizelmann-Roche Funeral Home is in charge of arrangments. 
Published in Republican & Herald on May 11, 2012