And so the trail-blazing career of my father begins — William P. Wenzler Architects, established in 1955. It’s been a bit of a climb getting to this point. There are so many stories to share and my dad is a man of detail. He doesn’t miss a thing. This attribute made him both a great architect and father. To get the full picture of who he was as an architect, you’ll get a picture of his most complex building project — his family. He was an architect with a wife and four children — an American family.
It’s not my intent to throw myself or anyone under the bus but let’s face it, people take a lot longer than buildings to complete. Consider this:
The daughter of an accomplished musician by the age of 10,
and an eagle scout by 16,
wanted to be an actress. Everything she experienced was something she would use on stage one day. She organized the neighborhood kids and charged a quarter admission for her garage show productions. Saturday was her acting class. Improvisation. It was the best part of her week. She preferred her acting class to her piano lessons which were also improvisations of sorts because she never practiced.
Her teacher’s name was Mrs. Brown. Her father questioned Mrs. Brown, when they first met, if she had a lovely daughter, referring to the popular Herman Hermits song of the day, Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. Mrs. Brown didn’t answer him. She didn’t know what he was talking about. She would patiently guide her pupil through her lessons, counting and instructing in the proper fingering, all the while telling her pupil that she was doing well. Afterwards, the daughter would boast to her father that she got a star and hadn’t even practiced. “Just think how good you would be if you did practice,” was his response.
The Conservatory where she studied was filled with serious students. For her piano recital, the teachers were lined up in chairs on both sides of the entryway to the auditorium. Chandeliers glistened over an audience in front of a stage filled with two concert-sized Steinways. The students filled the rows closest to the stage, awaiting their turns to play. The girl’s parents and grandparents were present.
She went over her music in her head as she sat there. The longer she waited, the less she remembered. When her turn came, she couldn’t remember a single note. Hoping it would come to her as she made her way to the stage; she sat down on the bench, placed her hands on the keys and played Fur Elise, furiously fast, stopping cold halfway through. She started over but didn’t make it as far the second time. She tried a third time, failed, then rose and went back to her seat. Afterwards, her grandparents gave her a fancy pen and pencil set. The girl told her mother she wanted to start voice lessons.
When she became a Girl Scout, she only earned the badges her troop earned as a group. She pinned her badges to her sash with safety pins even though each member of the troop had earned the sewing badge. When she had to sell Girl Scout cookies, she set up shop in the family den and waited for people to come to her. When her parents got tired of the cookies sitting around, her dad hitched up a horse to a buggy and road her and the cookies around the subdivision near their farm with the goats following them.
If truth be told, she lived mostly in her head and was a bit of a loner. Shy. She liked staying home on Friday nights when the house was quiet, playing the piano, singing and listening to Rachmaninoff with her cat as audience.
Her parents modeled that hard work and diligence paid off. It would take her a long time to learn the same.
Her parents taught her that becoming a good human being, as guided by the Lord, was the most important career aspiration she could have — by far outweighing any decision regarding vocation. It would prove to be the steepest and most arduous climb of all — demanding unending perseverance and eternal patience from those who cared about her as well as from herself.
Yes, obviously the girl was me. I know at one time or another, we all felt as though we won the black sheep award in our family. If I were to ask my mom which of us caused her and dad the most grief, I can hear her voice as clear as a bell saying,
“Oh heavens! You each shared that award equally!”
Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” Proverbs 20:11