James Donald “Jim” Wuenschel, passed away peacefully at home on Friday January 27, 2023 just hours after his family gathered around him for his 89th birthday. He was grateful for the far-reaching support and love from family and friends that sustained him through a valiant three-year struggle with pancreatic cancer and the progression of severe spinal stenosis.
He was born January 26, 1934 in Pittsburgh to Herman Joseph and Hilda Margaret Wuenschel.
A 1952 graduate of Avalon High School, he worked as a carpenter’s apprentice for several years before attending Edinboro State College near Erie, PA. He was drafted to serve in the United States Army in Korea (1956-1958). While he was stationed overseas, his parents moved from Jim’s childhood home in Avalon, PA to Flourtown, PA.
He was heartbroken not to be able to return to the idyllic home of his youth in Western Pennsylvania but grew to love the Philadelphia region and even adopted the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers becoming an enthusiastic fan of each team.
He graduated from LaSalle College (now LaSalle University) in 1962 and received a Master of Arts in Humanities from Beaver College (now Arcadia University) in 1983.
He married the love of his life, Mary Joyce “Joy” Renzulli, on August 17, 1963 and soon after, they filled their Germantown home with six children. Their 56-year marriage was a partnership that nurtured their individual passions while also demonstrating their commitment to caring for others in an ever-expanding circle of connection.
Jim’s passion for teaching began with a 30-year career at Roxborough High School where he taught English and Journalism and served as advisor for the school newspaper, The Ridge Record. After his retirement in 1993, he found students of all ages in a variety of settings. He tutored school age children through Inn Dwelling and taught adult courses at Mt. Airy Learning Tree on fly fishing or house painting.
St. Vincent de Paul Church in Germantown was a vital community of spiritual and social connections for Jim and he served on numerous committees and activities across more than six decades there, focusing on aide to the most vulnerable people in our community and numerous social justice actions.
Jim’s lifelong passion for the outdoors, hunting and fishing, began at an early age with his brothers. He became an avid fly fisherman, spending many days and evenings trying to fool fish. His exploits ranged from the regular trips to nearby streams (Wissahickon, Tulpehocken, Pohopoco creeks), the annual pilgrimage to the limestone streams near State College, to the multiple “once in a lifetime” trips to Montana.
As he cultivated deep and lasting bonds with his fishing buddies, there were also dozens of meaningful friendships that grew out of Pinochle games, small faith groups, the Men’s Group, and, of course, the devout football ministry that gathered for each Eagles game.
A proud Democratic Committeeman for the 59th Ward, 17th Division, Philadelphia in the late 1960s through 1970s, he continued to support the Democratic candidates who shared his values of social justice, preserving the environment, access to quality education for all, and voter participation.
Jim and Joy moved to Wyndmoor seven years ago and loved being close to their grandchildren, attending numerous school plays, baseball games, football games, piano recitals, circus performances, tennis matches, chorus concerts, and just about anything they could do to support and praise their grandchildren. After losing Joy and as his illness limited his mobility, Jim participated in the nightly conference call with his children, grandchildren, brother, and just about anyone who wanted to join in some banter about the day and play the word game.
In addition to his wife Joy, he is predeceased by his father Herman, his mother Hilda, his brother John “Jack”, and sister-in-law Margot.
He is survived by his sister-in-law Betty Wuenschel, brother Daniel, sister Mary Ann Miller (Eugene), children Rosemary (Ernest “Bucky” Closser), James Thomas, Catherine, Cristina (Walter Maguire), Daniel, and Mark (Elizabeth Brooks), grandchildren James Closser, Colman Closser, Willa Burns, Margaretta Maguire and Anna Wuenschel, granddogs Kaya, Calymae, Hazel and Frank and many other loving family members and dear friends.
Relatives and friends will be received from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday February 3 followed by Mass at 11 a.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 109 East Price Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144. Burial will be private. The Mass will be livestreamed at https://www.saint-vincent-church.org/.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church (Inn Dwelling, Face to Face or Joy Wuenschel Memorial Fund) all located at 109 East Price Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144 or A Love for Life to fund pancreatic cancer research online at www.aloveforlife.us or mailed to 117 North Lincoln Avenue, Newtown, PA 18940.