By Bruce Stambaugh
Glenn Wengerd, 61, is about as unassuming as a person can be. Dapper, sophisticated, egotistical are words that would never describe him.
That is just fine with the Winesburg native. Wengerd is as down home, easy going and likeable of an individual as you will ever meet. Of course, Wengerd would be too humble to say such things about himself. But that is typical Glenn Wengerd, too.
Wengerd is a life-long resident of Winesburg, a quaint unincorporated town tucked in the northeast corner of Holmes County. Although Winesburg has had its characters over the years and at one time had seven bars, it is no comparison to Sherwood Anderson’s famous novel “Winesburg, Ohio.”
Having spent his entire life in the picturesque village, which now has no saloons, Wengerd has known many of those characters over the years. He calls them “old-timers.”
Wengerd remembers riding his tricycle up and down the sidewalks of Winesburg as a toddler, and being teased by some of the town fathers.
“The old-timers would stop me by putting the hook of their canes into my bike’s spokes,” he recalled with a chuckle. Later the “old-timers” would visit him in his restoration shop just to sit and chat while he worked.
But Wengerd doesn’t linger or even live in the past. He helps preserve it. As a
profession, he restores antique cars and other assorted old items. Putting the finishing touches on an old potbellied stove for the German Culture Museum in Walnut Creek was his latest sidebar.
He restores antique toys and bicycles as a hobby. Wengerd even dedicated a rather large room in his 1897 residence on Main Street to house all his entertaining restorations. He holds open houses occasionally, including this coming September during the Winesburg Reunion, which happens every five years.
It is here where Wengerd really shines. He devotes untold hours helping the little town preserve itself for current and future generations to enjoy and appreciate. He has served as either President or Vice President of the Winesburg Historical Society for 25 years.
“The funny thing about that,” Wengerd said, “was that I agreed to join if I wasn’t an officer.” The group waited until the second year to name him their leader.
Prior to his deep involvement with the historical society, Wengerd served as president of the park board during the early development of the town’s recreational park. Today he gets a quiet contentment out of seeing people enjoy the shade of the trees he helped plant.
Wengerd’s roots go deep into the history of Winesburg. He owns the property his grandfather bought in 1949. His restoration shop was the chicken barn and carriage house.
As a child, Wengerd marked up the walls of his grandparents’ home with his tricycle tires. Now he lives in that same beautiful home, and according to Wengerd, he regrets being so reckless with his trike.
“We are trying to spruce up the house in preparation for the reunion,” he said, “and those marks are very hard to remove after all these years.”
The home’s exterior is also getting a fresh coat of paint, using the original color scheme as much as possible. To do that, he hired Nelson Roller, a local handyman who moved to Winesburg from West Virginia because he told his wife that “it felt like home.”
When Roller discovered his last name on the plaque that lists the past owners of Wengerd’s house, he inquired within. He went to the right person. The Rollers were among Winesburg’s first settlers. Nelson is likely a descendent.
Wengerd’s restoration efforts, however, go far beyond his own business and home. He has lead the effort through the Winesburg Historical Society to restore and relocate an old log cabin, Peter’s School and replicate the town’s original bandstand. All are set in a small park across from the town’s fire station.
Restoring the 1861 German Methodist Church building is the next project on the horizon. Wengerd said the historical society would like to see this undertaking completed in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War in 2011.
Dedicated as he is, Wengerd certainly doesn’t see his time, hard work or the interruptions as a bother. Just the contrary is true.
“It is a privilege to know, cultivate and hand down some of the local history,” he said. “Just recently people from Oregon and Maryland tracked me down about finding their roots here.”
Of course, Wengerd entertained their questions and invited them back for the reunion. That’s just the way Wengerd is, and Winesburg reaps the benefits.
This story first appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter on June 21, 2010.