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In Memoriam ~ Waldemar Wenner ’50

Waldemar “Wally” Wenner ’50

Waldemar Hall Wenner, “Wally” to all and a Minnesotan to his core, died March 29, 2021, in Millbrae, California at the age of 88. He was born Dec. 30, 1932, in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and grew up in a home on the Mississippi River, the eldest child of Dr. Waldemar Thomas Wenner and Louise Wenner (née Hall). He was the only one of his four brothers and sisters to leave Minnesota, but Minnesota never left him.

His deep Catholic faith was shaped by his time at Saint John’s Prep School for high school and Saint John’s University for college, where he earned valedictory honors at both levels. He earned a degree in Medicine from the University of Minnesota, following in his father’s footsteps to become a doctor.

Studying philosophy in college, Wally later mused that he might have been more suited to a contemplative life; however, his medical career would be devoted to the health of children as a pediatrician and that is what consumed his energy. He loved nothing more than giving newborn exams, taking care of babies and children, and teaching their parents how to raise them.

He married Mary Wenner (née Brownell) in 1958 in Hibbing, MN, at the start of his career, moved to San Francisco to hold a residence at UC San Francisco, and started a family. He subsequently worked at UCLA, mentored by Dr. Arthur Parmelee. He then practiced in the Public Health Service in Washington D.C. during the Vietnam War era, taking care of the families of those in the war zone. He later published academic research on the sleep states of premature infants while at the University of Washington in Seattle. After ending his marriage with Mary, he married Dr. Suzy Fong, a colleague with whom he shared a practice in San Jose; that marriage also ended. The bulk of his medical career was his private practice and connection to O’Connor Hospital. Wally was also a long-time member of the Family Health Plan Board of Commissioners in Santa Clara County. Upon his death, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo presented a formal commendation honoring Wally for his dedication to the city.

Wally will be remembered for his benevolence, in keeping with his quiet faith. Many of his patients in Santa Clara County were Spanish-speakers and he taught himself Spanish so he could speak more comfortably with them. He proudly cared for the children of many low-income families, choosing a less lucrative career path in order to maintain a compassionate outlook for those struggling. He joked that his patients were using “the Governor’s insurance”. His kindness was much appreciated: through the years, Wally’s patients grew up, had their own children, and brought them to him as new patients.

A lifelong communitarian, Wally expressed his consideration for people outside of his practice as well. He often would stop to talk to homeless people and offer assistance. He also made a special point of verbally thanking anyone in the service industry who waited on him. He was also a generous tipper.

Wally maintained his work well into his eighties, spending very little time in retirement. Throughout his life, he returned often to Minnesota for family gatherings and visits to his beloved Grand Lake cottage. Wally lived his last three years at the Magnolia Senior Living in Millbrae, California, but his final year was especially difficult due to the Covid-19 pandemic isolation, and the separation from his family. Many families were denied close contact and it is particularly painful for those elderly folks like Wally, who survived to get a vaccine but were still taken due to other health issues.

Wally Wenner leaves behind his daughter and son, Margaret Hunter and Niko Wenner, son-in-law Chris Hunter, daughter-in-law Céline Chrétien, stepfamily Rebecca Fong, Stephanie and Jamie Moore, their daughters Sarah, Kelsi, and Shannon; grandchildren Brae and Mettlin Hunter, and Théophile and Louise Wenner. He also is survived by his siblings; Catherine (Held), Elizabeth (Steil), Joseph ’63, and Paul ’65. Both his ex-wives are deceased.

A funeral Mass is planned for August 9, at 10:00 am at the Saint John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville, Minnesota. Interment will follow at Assumption/Calvary Cemetery in St. Cloud.

In consideration for the community, children, the immune compromised, and Wally’s lifelong advocacy for vaccines, please feel free to attend if you have been vaccinated. Masks will be required in the church.