Lawrence “Larry” Westley Wankel, age 65 of Perham, MN died Sunday, June 28, 2020 in his home surrounded by his loving family under the care of Hospice of the Red River Valley.
Larry was born on February 21, 1955 in Turtle Lake, ND, the eldest child of Westley and Isabelle (Bailly) Wankel. At six years old Larry started playing the piano and never stopped. Upon graduating high school in Hillsboro, ND Larry initially pursued a degree in engineering from North Dakota State University. He put himself through college by playing his bass guitar for the band, “Street Corner.” His love for music guided his fate and in 1977, he graduated with a degree in music education. Larry’s first teaching position was in Watford City, ND where he spent 12 years. After a one year stop in Mayville, ND his serendipitous journey found him in Perham around 1987, where Larry spent the rest of his teaching career.
Although successful in many arenas of life, Larry only realized what was missing after meeting his eventual bride, “Jazzy.” Jane (Von Ruden) Schmitz completed Larry’s life and on October 12, 1996 the couple was married at St. Henry’s Church. Throughout their marriage, Larry lovingly referred to Jane as his “bride,” the love of his life. Larry and Jane enjoyed sharing their life together by traveling the world. Either by ship, plane, train, or camper they lived life to the fullest. Through their travels, he became passionate for wine making, and developed his own vineyard. Along with Jane, Larry loved being around friends and family of many generations. All his prior life experiences had suited him well in handling the three kids that accompanied his bride. Over the years Larry wore many hats and developed very special connections to his kids. Always making himself available, Larry had a knack of making any situation better. No doubt his best teachings were done around the dinner table.
Music played such a huge part in Larry’s life and he was involved in dozens of community musicals in many artistic roles during his career. Larry also published and wrote the music and lyrics for a children’s musical, Those Magical Red Sneaks in 1996. On December 3, 2016, the off-Broadway show, Sgt. Stubby: The Great American War Dog Musical debuted in New York City. Larry proudly wrote the music and additional lyrics for this production. He choreographed numerous routines for marching bands, halftime shows, pops concerts and arranged band trips and performances in several other states. He was also very active in North Dakota’s Miss America Scholarship Pageant.
In May of 2013, a cancer diagnosis shortened Larry’s teaching career, allowing him to focus on traveling, writing, and connecting with friends and family. During the last two years of his life Larry joined the “Golden Pens” writing group where he found a new passion for writing and developed some of his closest friendships. Larry truly enjoyed his life and his keen sense of humor was present until the end.
Surviving Larry is his loving wife of 23 years, “Jazzy” Jane; his kids and grandkids Tony (Angela) Schmitz with Kael, Mallory, and Lilly; Katie (Cody) Geiser with Maximus, Briggs, and Lola; and Jonnie (Ashley) Schmitz; his parents Wes and Isy; siblings Tim (Deb) Wankel, David (Tina Hernandez) Wankel, Renee Wankel, Steve (Stephanie) Wankel, and Mark (Kathy) Wankel; Godmother Jackie Cisinski; mother-in-law Vila Von Ruden; along with numerous nieces and nephews and his Roxie, the four legged love of his life.
Preceding Larry in death was his father-in-law Max Von Ruden.
Visitation was from 5:00-8:00 p.m. with parish prayers at 7:00 on Thursday, July 2 at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Perham. Visitation will continue from 9:00-10:00 a.m. followed by the funeral Mass at 10:00 on Friday, July 3 at the church. Burial at the church cemetery will occur at a later date.
Schoeneberger Funeral & Cremation Service, Perham, MN (218) 346-5175 www.schoenebergerfh.com.