There are few places Wayne Winebrenner could go where he didn’t run into people he knew.
Whether close to home or on the road to places such as Myrtle Beach, S.C., or at an Orioles game in Baltimore, his family said he always was bumping into acquaintances.
Wayne’s life was characterized by his commitment to community — whether as a U.S. Marine serving in the Korean War, working his way up the ranks of the Maryland correctional system, as town manager for several small towns, or coordinating community projects through church and the many organizations with which he was involved.
“He was all about community,” said son Richard “Rick” Winebrenner of Martinsburg, W.Va.
Dorothy “Dottie” Winebrenner, who was married to Wayne for almost 59 years, said he was easygoing, but could be stern when he needed to be.
“He was patient and supportive,” said daughter Kim Winebrenner of Hagerstown.
Wayne grew up in Woodsboro, Md., and after his father’s death from tuberculosis when Wayne was 5, he was raised by his grandparents and aunts and uncles, of whom he had fond memories.
“He loved talking about his childhood,” Rick said.
After Wayne graduated from Walkersville (Md.) High School in 1951, he and a friend debated what the next step should be. More on a whim than with much thought, they decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Following basic training, Wayne’s friend went to an “easy and nice” assignment in Hawaii. Wayne was sent to Korea, Dottie said.
His post-war assignment was to the Marine Barracks at 8th and I streets in Washington, D.C., which was the presidential platoon, Dottie said. She said Wayne worked on the switchboard.
Even though Dottie grew up in Sabillasville, Md., and attended some of the same sporting events as Wayne, they didn’t meet until both were working in Washington.
Dottie said the recently returned Korean War veterans were mischievous and not quick to spend money on dates.
“He was tight. All the Marines were tight. They liked to sponge off the girls,” Dottie said.
She met Wayne in the spring of 1954 and they were married Oct. 30 of that year.
Kim said the family joke is that Dottie’s father told Wayne, “If you can afford her, you can have her.”
“It worked, so what can I say. You’ve got to work hard at it. We were so busy, we didn’t know the years were passing,” Dottie said of their almost 59 years of marriage.
Four years after they were married, the Winebrenners started their family. Rick was born, followed by Kim, and the children grew up in Hagerstown.
Wayne went to school at night, earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
After the war and in need of a job, Wayne was hired as a correctional officer at the Maryland House of Corrections in Jessup. That was the beginning of a long career during which he worked at the Maryland Correctional Institution and the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown and at Maryland Division of Correction headquarters. He served as warden at MCI-H and at the Eastern Correctional Institution.
“He basically grew up in that system,” said daughter-in-law Georgette Winebrenner.
Wayne balanced a heavy meeting schedule for community organizations with family vacations and travel.
“We spent plenty of time traveling. We went to Hawaii. That was great,” said Dottie, adding that a bus trip out west was one of their best trips.
Wayne was asked to serve as warden at Eastern Correctional Institution when it opened in 1985. The seven years Wayne and Dottie lived in Princess Anne on the Eastern Shore were some of Dottie’s favorites, with the family coming to visit often.
Wayne suffered a serious heart attack in 1987 and his response was to buy a boat, which provided many hours of enjoyment for the family. He was not one to sit idle, and was a true outdoorsman, enjoying fishing, boating, hunting, golfing and walking, Rick said.
Dottie said he had mixed emotions about taking the job at ECI because it was away from family, but it turned out to be a good move. It was while on the Eastern Shore, in his retirement, that Wayne first was asked to be town manager for the small town in which they were living. He ended up doing that for three small communities.
Wanting to move closer to family, Wayne took his final job in Boonsboro.
The Winebrenners moved back to Hagerstown in 1993.
“We’re a very close family,” Dottie said.
They were so close, in fact, that Wayne and Dottie also were friends with their children’s friends. One fall hunting trip Rick and his friends went on included Wayne, who was considered “one of the guys.”
In June 2011, Wayne traveled back to Korea with Rick, a trip hosted by the Korean government in remembrance of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire. By then, Wayne was on oxygen 24/7 due to pulmonary fibrosis, which was diagnosed about four years ago.
“We went and had a great time,” Rick said. “He took all his breathing equipment. He reminisced, he cried. It was closure to something that had nagged him a long time. He was a Marine through and through.”
It was important to Wayne that the Korean War not be forgotten. Seven years ago, he helped start Antietam Chapter 312 of the Korean War Veterans Association, so local veterans didn’t have to travel to Frederick, Md., which had the closest chapter.
Current chapter Commander Les Bishop of Hagerstown had known Wayne since the chapter was started and they collaborated on projects together.
“Wayne was one of my closest friends in the chapter,” Les said. “I guess Wayne and I saw eye to eye about a lot of things relating to the chapter.”
When Wayne was commander several years ago, Les said he appointed a committee to look into building a war memorial. In June 2012, Wayne proudly put on his uniform to attend the dedication ceremony of the Korean War Veterans Monument on Mealey Parkway.
“A great deal of credit goes back to him for getting projects started,” Les said. “Wayne was a good guy and will be sorely missed by all of us.”
Wayne was described as a natural leader, matter-of-fact and honest, but not one to offer unsolicited advice.
“If you asked him, you were going to get the truth,” said oldest grandson Chad Winebrenner of Inwood, W.Va.
Wayne adored his family, which included two grandsons, one great-grandchild and one great-grandchild on the way. Chad chose his grandfather to be the best man at his wedding.
Kim said her father was “very patriotic,” and when Chase joined the U.S. Navy, Wayne gave him a St. Christopher medal. Wayne proudly attended the commissioning of the USS Farragut in Florida, the ship on which Chase was serving.
“He was an awesome grandfather,” Georgette said.
Wayne was an avid baseball fan and a longtime supporter of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I can’t imagine how many hours my grandfather and I spent talking baseball,” Chad said. “I had the honor of taking him to his last baseball game.”
Chad splurged on tickets in 2012 for fourth-row seats near the Orioles dugout to see the Orioles play the New York Yankees in Baltimore. He said they had “phenomenal seats at an awesome game,” with the Orioles beating the Yankees.
Before becoming members of Salem Reformed Church, the Winebrenners were members of Christ’s Reformed Church during the time that church was contemplating what to do with a former shoe factory that had been donated to the church. Wayne was asked to head up the committee.
“Wayne never said no to anybody,” Dottie said. “He worked very hard on that for 10 years. He and I were proud of it. He really worked tirelessly.”
“He believed in what he was doing and wanted it to be a success,” Kim said.
That building is now the Aspiring to Serve Community Center, which is dedicated to housing nonprofit and/or for-profit tenants who serve the needs of others at minimal rental rates, according to its website.
As the lung disease took its toll, Wayne had to slowly surrender to it, giving up the things he loved, but remaining productive until last year.
“I think he left a big mark,” Dottie said.
“I think the community will miss him,” Rick said.
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Wayne B. Winebrenner, who died Aug. 13 at the age of 80. His obituary was published in the Aug. 14 edition of The Herald-Mail.