In Memoriam: John Wenzel, 100

A remarkable life included years at Chase National Bank

(adapted from death notice in The New York Times)


John Robert Wenzel died peacefully at home in Brooklyn Heights, NY on October 2, 2023 at the age of 100.


Wenzel was born in Manhattan and lived in Great Neck, NY with his parents and three siblings until the Depression, which required his family to move several times for his father's job. His family eventually settled in Chestnut Hill, PA. Wenzel was a freshman at Lafayette College when Pearl Harbor was attacked, which changed the course of his life.


At the age of 19, Wenzel enlisted in the Aviation Cadet program with the Army Air Corps. He had never been near an airplane or a gun, but learned how to fly a P47 Thunderbolt. In 1944, he arrived in Tarquinia, Italy, as a replacement pilot in the 347th Fighter Squadron with the 350th Fighter Group. Becoming a fighter pilot and confronting the Nazis was his wartime goal. Wenzel flew 93 solo missions over Italy and earned numerous awards and medals, including an EAME Theater Ribbon with Two Bronze Stars, an Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters, two Purple Hearts, a Distinguished Flying Cross, an Overseas Service Bar and a Silver Star. John's distinguished military service during WWII was recently recognized by The New York Times in an article published on April 30, 2023 entitled He Bombed the Nazis. 75 Years Later, the Nightmares Began.


Wenzel returned to Philadelphia after the war and enrolled at Swarthmore College. Following graduation from Swarthmore, he began his business career at Chase National  Bank, where he was initially based in Puerto Rico and was a member of the Puerto Rico International Air Guard. After Chase transferred Wenzel to Manhattan, he lived in the West Village with several lifelong friends and painted in an art studio he rented on Avenue D.


During this period, he struggled with his competing desires to be a painter or continue his business career. He opted for a career that would provide for a family, joining Ideal Corporation, an automotive parts manufacturer in Brooklyn, where he eventually became its President.


While living in the West Village, John met his wife of 52 years, Alice Newman. They raised their daughters, Emily and Abby, in Brooklyn Heights and then Sea Cliff, Long Island. When Parker Hannifin Corporation acquired Ideal Corporation, Wenzel became Division President of Parker's automotive manufacturing operations. He also served for several years as the Chairman of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA). At a 1976 MEMA convention, Wenzel opened the convention with a provocative speech calling on the automotive industry and the Carter Administration to develop a comprehensive energy policy because the "country demands a socially acceptable car, a safe, durable, energy efficient car with low emissions."


After retiring from Parker Hannifin in 1986, Wenzel began painting again. His other passions included golf, jazz, traveling with his wife, and fighting for equality and justice. During his long tenure as a board member on the Rauch Foundation, he focused on racial injustice and educational equity.


Among his survivors are his daughters, three granddaughters and three great-granddaughters. A memorial service TBA. Contributions in his memory may be made to Erase Racism (

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