Passing of Wendell R. Willingham

Wendell Ross Willingham was born on October 24, 1950, in Oklahoma and left us on Friday, July 10, 2020, in the presence of family and friends at his home in Pacific Grove. Following a difficult first few years of life, Wendell was blessed to find his way into the home of Paul and Zelma Willingham in the mid-1950s. Wendell’s union with Paul and Zelma set the stage for a wonderful life. He grew up in the Modesto area and, as a sophomore in high school, moved to Hughson, CA. During his teenage years, Wendell worked with Paul in his road grading operation. In the late 1960s, Wendell met Linda Collins, a co-worker at a Blue Chip Stamp store in Modesto. Linda turned out to be the true love of his life and they married in 1974. Within a few years, Wendell and Linda moved to Turlock, where they spent more than 30 years. During this time, Wendell served as a firefighter for CDF Merced County, stationed in Hilmar and then Ballico. He even spent a few years as a licensed real estate agent. Following retirement, Wendell and Linda followed a dream and moved to Pacific Grove in 2010, a place that had always been a mini paradise for them. While Linda volunteered at the Point Pinos Lighthouse, Wendell toiled away, making improvements to their home just up the street. Unfortunately, their time spent living this dream together didn’t last long, with Linda passing away in 2012. While Wendell never got past Linda’s passing, he did the best he could to enjoy the life that remained. He continued to take part in annual trips with a group of buddies from back home; completed a solo drive of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica; and made several good friends with neighbors and people he met at his favorite hang-out, The Sandbar and Grill in Monterey. Wendell always kept in contact with family and friends by telephone and many of us looked forward to talking with him and hearing the newest funny story about his daily exploits. Wendell had an uncanny sense of humor and was always the life of the party, even when there was no party going on. While Wendell and Linda had no children of their own, they virtually adopted various nephews and nieces over the years. They cared for, taught, and provided for them, just as if they were their own children. However, it was clear to everyone that their true children were the many faithful dogs they had through the years!

Wendell was preceded in death by Paul and Zelma Willingham and his wife, Linda. He leaves behind his brother, Gale Willingham of Shingle Springs and sister Pat Maisetti of Patterson, CA. He was also fortunate enough to get to know some of his living biological siblings, including Joan West in Tennessee and Linda Morphew in Texas. He’ll also be greatly missed by his sisters and brothers-in-law, many nieces and nephews, and numerous friends and acquaintances he collected (and made laugh) throughout his life. Funeral services are pending and will be announced at a later date. Remembrances can be made in Wendell’s name to the Animal Friends Rescue Project (AFRP) in Pacific Grove at www.animalfriendsrescue.org or PO Box 51083, Pacific Grove, CA 93950