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Wenke Family Celebrates Matriarch’s 101th Birthday

Pioneer family part of La Feria’s Legacy

Bill Keltner

Bill Keltner

The celebration of Roumania Marian Wenke’s 101 years parallels the 100 years of the existence of La Feria. Many already know this stalwart lady’s legend because of the mark that she and the Wenke family made and left on our city down to this day. She came from a pioneer, stout German background, and knew how to work and raise a family with the “old fashioned virtues and values” that have almost disappeared from the scene today.

She began her trek on May 14, 1914 in Detroit, Michigan. The Great War, as it was then known, was just beginning.

Sally lived through the “Roaring Twenties”, the Great Depression and its hardships, and then the suffering and anguish of the Second World War. It was during this conflict that her husband, Carl Wenke moved his family first to Hargill, Texas in 1941, next to Monte Alto in 1942, and finally to La Feria in 1944 and bought a house at 413 South Main Street. There, she and her truck driver husband raised a family of seven children, all of whom attended La Feria Elementary, Middle and Senior High Schools.

Early Wenke family gathering in La Feria home - Backrow: Georgene, Sally, Carl, and Karl; Front row: Geneva, Vivian, Butch, Clara.

Early Wenke family gathering in La Feria home – Backrow: Georgene, Sally, Carl, and Karl; Front row: Geneva, Vivian, Butch, Clara.

She recalls that in those years, it was quite a trip to go from Brownsville to Mission on the narrow two-lane highways connecting all the cities in the Valley. There were just the two narrow hard roads–the old Military highway and Highway 83. “My, how times have changed.”

At present count, this family matriarch rightly boasts of a total of 88 descendents: 7 children, 21 Grandchildren, 41 Great-grandchildren and 19 Great, great grandchildren.

Their firstborn, Karl Wenke currently lives in Pasadena, Texas, Georgene Kuykendall is deceased, but lived in Brownwood, Clara Rawls lives in Brownwood, Vivian Greek lives in Harlingen. Geneva Wick lives in San Benito and “Butch” Wenke is retired and lives in San Marcos.

The demands of taking care of the needs of her extended family occupied her life. But, her children said, “when she had time, she loved to read, she enjoyed the outdoors, all kinds of fishing, sewing and crocheting. But, her greatest hobby that gave her a lot of joy was growing roses.”

Long-time La Feria residents will remember the name Wenke because of the outstanding record they made in athletics. “Butch” Wenke said all the Wenke kids were excellent participants in many sports–especially football. “It just came to them naturally,” he said.

The name Wenke was often in the news and sports pages of the LA FERIA NEWS and THE VALLEY MORNING STAR during their school years. “Those years, when I was a player and later coach, were great times. We brought home many athletic trophies including state and division awards in many sports still on display at the high school,” he said as he reminisced about the family legacy.

The Wenke family today - Karl Wenke, Butch (Joseph) Wenke, Clara Wenke Rawls, Vivian Wenke Greek, Geneva Wenke Wick celebrating the 101th birthday of Sally on the first row.

The Wenke family today – Karl Wenke, Butch (Joseph) Wenke, Clara Wenke Rawls, Vivian Wenke Greek, Geneva Wenke Wick celebrating the 101th birthday of Sally on the first row.

Butch got his education and worked with the La Feria Independent School District for 29 years before retiring to San Marcos, Ten of those years he served as School Superintendent. He was originally hired in 1974 as coach, teacher and athletic director; later as principal and finally Superintendent. During his tenure he managed to get enough funds from the Texas Education Agency to practically rebuild and upgrade the entire school system.

Roumania (Sally) Wenke honored on her 101th birthday celebration, May 14, 2015.

Roumania (Sally) Wenke honored on her 101th birthday celebration, May 14, 2015.

With those funded monies, the La Feria I.S.D was able to build new schools, a much-needed gymnasium, a million-dollar central cafeteria for the High school and many other needed additions still being enjoyed by students today. “We did all of that with only one local bond issue for the citizens of La Feria during my ten years as Superintendent,” he pointed out.

So, there we have the legacy of the Wenke family, a family that is very much a part of La Feria’s 100-year anniversary and the story of the life that a 101-year-old hard-working, dedicated mother of seven kids, now looks back on and says, “I’m proud of all my children and their accomplishments.”
Readers wanting to know more or contribute to the Roumania Wenke story can call Vivian Wenke Greek at 793-8737.

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6 Responses to Wenke Family Celebrates Matriarch’s 101th Birthday

  1. David Wright Reply

    June 1, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    My father was the minister at the First Presbyterian Church from 1960 – 1967. I graduated from LFHS in 1963 with Generva and my brother, John, graduated in 1965. Butch was my best fr iend and I spent a lot of time at the Wenke’s where Sally’s and Carl’s wisdom and love was disbursed in great quantities. Mr. Wenke called me “Wright Boy.” Its a shame Blackie isn’t in that picture. He was part of the family.

    I’ve lived in a lot of places since leaving La Feria in 1963, but La Feria will always be my home. And, Butch will always be my friend.

    BTW, my Grandparents, Dr. Clarence and Mrs. Mona Cash settled in San Benito in 1909.

  2. Vicki Hawthorne Reply

    June 2, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    I have known this beautiful family all of my 52 years of life. My parents and “Aunt Gene” (Georgene)and “Uncle Don” (Kuykendall) have been friends since they were young sprouts. I and my sister grew up w/their kids – Sandra, Clay, Jeff, and Jenifer. My husband and I see Uncle Don, the kids, Clara and her husband Jimmy when we can. We’re all still as close as we can be with busy lives. Love these folks!

  3. Ofelia Reyes Carbajal Reply

    June 2, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Recognized my good friend, Vivian, right away!

  4. Mildred King Autrey Reply

    June 2, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Well, a GREAT Happy Birthday to YOU, Sally!! I wish that I could have brought my Mom, Marjo Altum King, down for this event, also. We had such a nice visit last year when you stepped into another CENTURY for you!
    I, also, remember playing with your grand-kids, Clay and Sandy. You and my grandmother, “Mommieo”, Lucille Altum Bickler, were quite the instigators in your day. This is from all the stories that she told me, so many years ago. And some that I found out from YOU, last year….LOL
    I remember we always went to see you, to find out how many fish you and Mommieo caught on that trip. Oh, the memories that I have from living in La Feria those early years, from 1961-1971.
    I really could go on and on. Thanks for the memories that I have today. You are an AWESOME woman! I just wish that Mommieo was still around to create so many more.

  5. Susan Wenke Kennett Reply

    June 12, 2015 at 1:14 am

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AUNT SALLY! I remember receiving oranges and grapefruits every Christmas from our Texas family. It’s so nice to see a picture of my aunt and cousins. Even though we didn’t get to see all of you very often, I still remember the Wenke get-togethers at Uncle Ben and Aunt Cleola’s house. It would be so much fun to have a reunion one of these days. My love to all of you and your families. Susan Wenke Kennett

  6. Mary Thaxton Knight Reply

    July 12, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    I had such fun with this family growing up! Vivian was my best friend and my mother and Sally was best friends and fishing buddies! I spent many sleep over nights with all 4 girls and I in one room, talking and giggling the night away! Their little brother Butch always pestering And tattling on us.LOL Sally do you remember making my beautiful wedding cake? Sweet Georgene gave me a baby shower with my first daughter. Happy Birthday Sally, you and Carl raised a beautiful family! Love and miss you all!

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