We all are only allotted a certain, predetermined amount of time. It’s a gift, and gifts are meant to be cherished and shared.
Carl Wenger possessed a giving heart. He paid attention to all the details, especially those that were most important. He inspired the people around him to want to be better.
In that way, he was rich. He made the most of his life, and lived it to the fullest.
Wenger passed away at home on Friday, April 30, surrounded by the people he was closest to. He was 88.
Wenger was an entrepreneur and a philanthropist and a founder. He was a father, a family man, a man of faith, and a friend.
“All along, my Dad, even in lean years, was just a generous man,” said Rose Walmer, the youngest of Carl and Margaret Wenger’s seven children. “He just was always generous. He used to say, ‘You can never out give God, but the more you give, the more God gives.’ It was in his heart to give back. The blessings are gotten when you give back. He didn’t know how not to give. That’s who he was.
“I never knew Dad to be any different than that,” added Walmer. “It wasn’t like a switch that turned on one day and he became that way. It was just part of his Christian faith. Even if he didn’t have money, he would’ve found ways to give.”
Wenger, who was married to Margaret for 70 years, founded Wenger’s Farm Machinery in 1958, and the business later became known simply as ‘Wengers of Myerstown.’ It truly is a family business.
Six of Wenger’s seven children forged full-time careers out of working at Wengers of Myerstown. Today, the fourth generation of Wengers helps operate a business that employees about 70 mostly local residents.
“He was very visionary,” said Walmer, the president of the Wenger Foundation and the human resources manager for Wengers of Myerstown. “He saw the big picture. He was a promoter. Any event he’d be involved with, he’d just go at it. He would do it together. He would bring people together. He just always wanted to take something to the next level. He would get ahold of things, get them to grow and get more people involved.
“Each generation has just built off what came before it,” continued Walmer. “One of the best things we’ve been able to build on is the Wenger name, the Wenger brand. The way we treat people, with respect and honesty, speaks to who we are. We have great employees. Some of our staff has been with us for 30 to 35 years, or more. We’ve had tremendous people over the years.”
A one-time dairy farmer, Wenger began selling farming equipment from his residence on Race Street in Myerstown in 1952. In 1989, the Wengers moved the business to 814 South College Street, or Route 501, then ten years later expanded the operation to include more warehouse storage space and a larger sales lot.
Wenger diversified into the business of motorcycle sales in 2006.
“He and my mother were married in 1950, and they started married life as dairy farmers,” said Walmer. “They bought a couple of pieces of farming equipment, and guys would come to him for equipment. He would sell pieces behind the barn. Eventually, they sold the dairy cattle and Dad went to work growing the business. From then on, he was only buying and selling equipment.
“Dad will tell you he had a vision of our building on 501,” Walmer added. “He had a vision of growing it beyond its start on Race Street. Dad was a farmer first, an entrepreneur and then a philanthropist. He was always busy building a business, and he took us kids along for the ride. He was a mentor to all of us, at one time or another. But Dad never quite understood how technology took the business to the next level. His mind didn’t go as far as the Internet went.”
In 1996, Wenger’s heart for giving led him to start the Wenger Foundation. Over the next 25 years, the Wenger Foundation donated more than $3.5 million to such charitable causes as On Fire Ministry of Myerstown, Evangelical Seminary, Brethren Disaster Relief Auction, COBYS Family Services of Lancaster, and Rodeheaver Boys’ Ranch in Florida, just to name a few.
Wenger’s charitable sprit also manifested itself in his involvement in the Myerstown Lions and Rotary Clubs, Future Farmers of America, and the 4-H Club.
“I’m different, and I dare to be different,” said Carl Wenger, in a recent video commemorating the Wenger Foundation’s 25th anniversary. “I don’t know how not to give.”
“He would always be in my office asking, “How do we grow the Wenger Foundation?’” said Walmer, a 56-year-old resident of Myerstown. “He always wanted more people involved, so they could have that feeling of giving. My mom and dad always felt it was important to help the youth. They saw the value of leadership. They always wanted to encourage kids and help support families to be active in agriculture.
“When the Wenger Foundation was started, it kind of landed on my desk,” Walmer continued. “I took it from there. But he was always thinking bigger. I don’t have the promotion piece that Dad had, but I have his heart. We just want people to walk along with us. The faith message was important to Dad.”
Wenger was born in Rexmont on May 20, 1932. He was an active member of Myerstown Church of the Brethren.
Wenger was well-known in and around the Myerstown community, as much for his character and jovial nature as his bolo tie, the big ‘W’ he wore on his belt buckle and his Stetson hat, of which he owned 25.
“I can’t tell you how blessed I am,” said Walmer. “My parents were married for 70 years, and it was a good marriage. We lost the best cheerleader we had. Dad was our biggest supporter. He was always challenging you to take it to the next level. He was always looking ahead and how to make it better. ‘How can we make more money for the charity?’
“He wouldn’t just write the checks and walk away,” concluded Walmer. “He’d walk with us. He was right there beside us. He was just so generous to the community. Dad’s leaving some big shoes to fill.”
Because the true measure of a man’s success is directly related to the number of lives he touched.
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using the contact form below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.
Do you support local news?
If you believe that Lebanon County needs independent, high-quality journalism, consider joining LebTown as a member. Your support will go directly towards stories like this and you will be helping ensure that our community has a reliable news source for years to come.
Learn more about membership and join now here.