Patagonia lost one of its most beloved citizens when late on the night of Oct. 3, Doris Wenig passed in the familiar surroundings of her home with her devoted husband Don Wenig at her side. She would have celebrated her 92nd birthday on Oct. 27.
Doris Marie Melcher was born on Oct. 27, 1928 at home in rural Pipestone County, Minnesota, the second child of three born into the family of Joseph and Marie Melcher. Though she grew up on a farm, as her cousin Dick Klosterman remembers their childhood, Doris was “not your typical farm girl. She was more adventurous.” Perhaps that was the trait that led two of her aunts to urge her to “get off the farm.”
Doris took that advice and got a teaching certificate after two years of schooling in Browns Valley, MN. She recalled that one of her elementary students was 16 years old. Later she returned for more schooling and received a bachelor’s degree in education at Morehead College.
She was recruited by Tucson District One Schools at the elementary level. Always bent on self-improvement, she added credentials to become a children’s librarian and art teacher. She served in those capacities during her 40-year career.
Tucson sustained her not only with a job, but she made several life-long friends, two of whom became key figures in her life, Bernice Pomeroy and Don Wenig, who later became her husband of 48 years.
When the Wenigs retired, they moved to Patagonia, a town they had already grown to love. They opened the county’s first bed and breakfast in a house they remodeled on Sonoita Ave. A decade later, they closed the B&B and traveled off and on for several years. They then designed and built the home of their dreams and enjoyed it for several years before deciding that a formal retirement community was more suited to their needs. They sold their home and moved to Green Valley, but ultimately, they decided it was less fulfilling than they expected and bought and moved back to the home they had reluctantly left.
She and Don enjoyed life, nature, and dancing, spending many Sunday afternoons across the border at La Roca dining and dancing.
Patagonians will miss seeing Doris as they go about their daily lives around town. Many will recall the countless occasions on which she brightened their day with a warm smile, light-hearted laughter or kind words of acceptance and support that came so easily to her. They will remember, too, her love of the community’s bountiful music, dance and art.
Doris was a doer, a roll-up-yoursleeves and get to work kind of person. An avid supporter and participant in many community activities, organizations and causes, she will likely be best remembered for her work with Friends of the Library.
Upon learning in the late 1990s that the town could not pay the librarian’s salary, Doris swung into action with a most improbable fundraising idea…selling chocolate chip cookies baked and donated by her friend Bernice. The cookie sale proved to be only the first of a myriad of fundraising activities that included two golf tournaments and bus tours to surrounding points of interest that raised nearly $18,000 in support of the library. Perhaps the most important outcomes of this flurry of activity, however, was the creation of the Patagonia Regional Community Fund and the Patagonia Library Endowment Fund, both of which provide critical financial support to a wide range of activities.
While those who knew Doris will miss her infectious warmth, energy and enthusiasm, the entire town will long enjoy the fruits of her tireless efforts to make this community like no other- friendly, vibrant and captivating.
A lifelong Catholic, Doris was a member of the St. Therese Parish in Patagonia.
Memorial donations may be made to the Patagonia Public Library. No memorial service is planned.