Baldwin community remembers Ernie Wenger, of Wenger Insurance

BALDWIN — Community members across Lake County are mourning the death of Ernie Wenger, who died Feb. 2.  

With deep roots in Lake County, Wenger invested his love into the community and served in many capacities all of his life.

As a pillar in the Baldwin community, many knew him as co-owner of Wenger Insurance, a third-generation family-owned and operated independent insurance agency, which has been in operation since 1918 with locations in both Baldwin and Big Rapids.

Many others knew his smile from all of the community functions he had been part of, and because of how well rooted his family has been in Lake County. 

Susie Bradford Tripp, a life-long Baldwin resident, said her family was friends with his family. 

“We thought he was a kind, positive force for the Lake County community as a whole,” she said. 

As a Baldwin graduate, Class of 1965, Wenger was always athletic and excelled in sports. 

Recently retired Judge Mark Wickens said Wenger’s love for sports remained throughout his life. 

“He played a lot of softball back in the day. He liked golf, tennis, bowling and all sorts of sports. He did everything,” Wickens said. 

After graduating Baldwin High School, Wenger attended Ferris State University and received a degree from Michigan State University, where he completed several insurance courses. During summers, he worked at the insurance agency, and by 1971, he accepted a position, working alongside his dad, Emil Wenger, in their family insurance business, according to a Lake County Star article from April 8, 1971. This business has been passed down in his own family. 

Early roots which Wenger put down in the Baldwin area, he remained devoted to through the years. He was part of the Baldwin Rotary Club, even serving in officer positions, since a young man, and he was active with the Baldwin Congregational Church. 

Tripp remembers his beautiful vocal talents, singing in the Baldwin Congregational Choir and in their community cantata programs. He also played trombone in the Scottville Clown Band for years. 

When Baldwin had a Jaycee program, he was very active in that organization, even winning a distinguished Jaycee Award in 1977, according to Star archives. 

"He gave so much of himself to Lake County. We extend our most sincere sympathy," both Bruce and Jenny Micinski, of the Lake County Historical Museum, said.

Lake County Sheriff Rich Martin also conveyed his condolences. 

“All of us at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ernie Wenger, a long time Baldwin resident, business leader, community leader and all around good guy,” he said. 

Wenger was also a member of the Lake-Osceola State Bank board, he served on the Baldwin Troutarama Committee and the Baldwin Promise, and involved with awarding music scholarships to students attending Ferris State University. 

With his love and service to the area, Wenger’s life was a testament to the positive spirit which makes many people proud to call Baldwin, “home.”