Don Wenig, longtime member of the Patagonia community, died at Banner South Hospital on December 8, 2020. His love for the town was undiminished to the end, and his contributions to its well-being have established his reputation for years to come.
Don was born on May 28, 1931, in Iowa, and grew up in Dallas, TX. After attending the University of Texas, he served in the army, but a winter in an unheated barracks at a Nike base in northern Indiana convinced him that a warmer climate would suit him better. He moved to Tucson, where he engaged in several occupations, among them the part-ownership of the ski facility on Mount Lemmon. Deciding on a teaching career, he enrolled at the U of A for certification, and settled happily into a position as an elementary teacher in the Tucson system, specializing in art education.
During his years in Tucson, he was part of a group of young people whose adventurous spirits loved the outdoors and travel. One of those young people was Doris, another teacher, whose mother, on meeting Don for the first time, told Doris, “Hang onto that one, he’s a keeper.” Which she did, and Don and Doris became the love affair and partnership that has affected so many. After their careers in Tucson teaching, they retired – but the sense of adventure that had brought them together continued strong.
Patagonia drew them for any number of reasons, but the qualities of its people were the strongest draw. They bought an old adobe, made it livable, and soon made it into a B&B. They loved the town, and became a part of its fabric, relishing and promoting its character. Don, a natural instigator, took an active role in developing amenities like the Butterfly Garden, as well as necessities like the local clinic. He was a spark plug for what came to be the Fall Festival, and served on more boards, and attended more meetings, than any one person could be expected to experience in a lifetime of service. What other person could have initiated both the local bridge group and the famous Full Moon Picnics in the San Rafael?
Don loved to travel, and Doris, until her last years, was an enthusiastic companion. Both felt strong affection for Mexico, and there is a long list of friends who joined them on jaunts as far afield as raft trips in Chiapas, or fiestas for the Virgin of Guadalupe in Alamos, or mission tours in Sonora, with dancing and mezcal by moonlit pools long into the night.
Don was a consummate friend: always ready to listen to your gripes, console you with a wry observation, cheer you with a perfect martini. He was a gentleman to the core, rarely lost his temper, believed deeply in cooperation and compromise.
Community, while an easy concept to espouse, was for him a project that engaged his full person. His community will remember his name with deep love and respect.