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We honor and celebrate the life of a Stark County woman, Mary Renkert Wendling, who though no longer with us, continues to give back to our community.
Mary was born at Mercy Hospital in 1934 to Maurice and Bessie Marie Wendling. Maurice was a respected attorney with an office in the Renkert Building, which was known as Canton’s first skyscraper and constructed around 1913 by Harry S. Renkert. Bessie Marie was the daughter of Oliver Renkert, brother to Harry. Oliver, a dentist by profession, was the Vice President of the Metropolitan Paving Brick Company of Canton. Oliver and Harry were the sons of J. J. Renkert, the pioneering Ohio brick and tile manufacturer. Mary was the beloved first and only child of Maurice and Bessie Marie, and their dedication to her was revealed in the contents of an archival donated box at the McKinley Research Library.
From the first day of Mary’s birth, her mother began to write entries in a book entitled “Log of Life.” There are inscriptions of important dates, trips, parties, celebrations, and developmental milestones. There are locks of hair, baby teeth, hand and footprints, report and birthday cards, party invitations, greeting cards, letters, photographs and even a first Will and Testament written by Mary herself at the age of 12. In her will she bequeathed all of her possessions, including her dog Boots and her turtle Whiskey, to her mother should she survive her. Included even are letters from her own special Tooth Fairy, “Marigold.” A letter written to Mary, by her father in 1937 states: “Always do things promptly. You will find it pays in the end. Be always steadfast, truthful, and loyal. May you have a full, happy and healthful life.”
By all accounts, Mary’s life seemed to be a happy and productive one. She attended St. John’s Elementary School and graduated from Lehman High School. She had written in her “Log of Life” when she was 17 that she sincerely hoped to be able to enter the field of Medical Technology and specialize in Bacteriology. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Mount Union College in 1956. She had also attended Marquette University and completed an internship in Medical Technology at University Hospital in Cleveland. She was eventually employed at Timken Mercy Hospital in 1951 and worked as a medical technologist and bacteriologist, continuing her career there until she retired in 1997. Her Log of Life indicates that she took many trips, loved to drive, and was devoted to her family, friends, colleagues and animals.
In 1998, Mary established the Mary Renkert Wendling Foundation, a private charitable foundation headquartered in Brooklyn, Ohio. Only three years later, Mary passed away at the age of 66 on September 30, 2001. No cause of death was indicated in her obituary but she was said to have passed peacefully. She was a member of the Humane Society, Chihuahua Club of America, American Society of Medical Technologists, Ketchum Society of Mount Union College, the Metropolitan Opera Guild, and the Wagner Society of New York. Today, Mary’s Foundation continues giving back to our community. In 2023, the Mount Union Department of Visual Arts and Media was awarded a $30,000 grant to purchase equipment to give students more opportunities for hands-on learning. Other recipients have included Walsh University, Ohio Light Opera, Tuscarawas Philharmonic, the
Canton Museum of Art, and Goodwill Industries. In summary, we acknowledge with gratitude today Mary Renkert Wendling, who led a rich and fulfilling life and succeeded in her plan to pay it forward.
McKinley Presidential Library & Museum