March 4, 1930 — July 27, 2022


SPARTA - Joan Mae Wenzel, 92, of Sparta passed away in peace on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at Mayo Clinic Health Systems, La Crosse.  She was born on March 4, 1930 to Carl and Lucia (Kraemer) Fehrenbach in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

   Joan graduated from Marshfield Senior High School in 1948, and attended the Wisconsin State College at Stevens Point (now UWSP), receiving a Bachelor of Education degree and studying vocal music. She subsequently taught elementary school in Merrill, Wisconsin, finding great joy in teaching kindergarten and first-grade students to read, while also singing in the Merrill Sweet Adelines female barbershop group.

   On July 16, 1955, she married Darrell Wenzel, also a Marshfield Class of ‘48 alumnus.  They relocated to Sparta in 1959, and bought into the jewelry store, which became Hoag & Wenzel and then Wenzel Jewelers.  In later years, Joan became a business partner in the Dala Gift Horse store, which she continued to operate after merging into the jewelry store.  She kept both businesses going until 1999, seven years after Darrell’s death.  Not content simply to retire from the business community, she then served as a Sparta Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, leading its Honorary Citizen program awarded to unsuspecting tourists who happened to be visiting or passing through Sparta.

   Joan was a dedicated member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, cantoring, singing in the adult choir, directing its Resurrection Choir, teaching First Communicants in the church’s youth religious education program, and leading rosary prayer groups at area nursing homes. From high school on, she was asked to lend her pitch-perfect soprano voice to the weddings of so many dear friends and family.

   She was a founding board member of the Sparta Concert Association from 1966 until its disbandment in 2000, a member of the Sparta Garden Club, Wisconsin Education Association, Sparta Hospital Foundation board member, hostess for educational tea programs at the Sparta Museum, and an active supporter of her children’s many school activities as room mother, music parent, and chaperone.

   Joan loved spending time and entertaining at their cottage at Spring Bank, taking frequent rides along the Elroy-Sparta and La Crosse River bike trails, and traveling far and wide to visit family and friends. Her travels took her on pilgrimages to Ireland, as well as Rome (twice) with the La Crosse Diocese bishop.  She even enjoyed downhill skiing and snowshoeing, with several trips to the Rockies through Elderhostel, until age 77, and would have continued skiing if her body had remained able.  But no matter how enticing these wonderful, far-away places were, she always considered Sparta and Spring Bank to be home.

   It’s a mystery that she ever found any spare time, but when

she did, Joan enjoyed knitting, sewing, gardening, cooking, canning, collecting, antiquing, clogging, and of course more singing.

   Joan is survived and missed dearly by her children, Ann (Marc) Fenske of Huron, SD, Philip (Kristin Holmes) Wenzel of Edmonds, WA, Peter (Benjamin Page) Wenzel of Portland, OR, and John (Keli) Wenzel of Kansas City, MO; grandchildren, Emily (Brandon) Goergen, Thomas (Brooklynn) Fenske, Alison (Brent) Eddy, Dana Wenzel, Charles, Maley, and Alexander Wenzel; and great-grandchildren Brynlee and Halee.

   She was preceded in death by her parents, Lucia and Carl Fehrenbach; husband, Darrell Wenzel in 1992; five brothers: James, Donald, William, Norman, and Robert Fehrenbach; a sister, Mary Jane Trossen; and great-grandson, Rory Goergen.

   A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday, August 12, at 2:00 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sparta, with visitation from noon until the time of the service.

   Donations in Joan’s memory would be welcomed by the St. Clare Health Mission Clinic of Monroe County or the Deke Slayton Memorial Space & Bicycle Museum in Sparta, as she was a passionate volunteer and supporter of these and other charitable health, education and arts organizations.

   Cards and condolences may be addressed to the Wenzel family in care of Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home, 106 W Franklin St, Sparta, WI 54656.

   Online condolences may be offered at

Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home