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November 6, 2021, Honor Flight: Coast Guard Veteran Kenneth Weddig of Kewaskum

Washington County, WI – A self-described “lifer” of the West Bend, Wisconsin, area, Coast Guard veteran Kenneth Weddig of Kewaskum will be on the upcoming November 6, 2021, Stars & Stripes Honor Flight with one of his best friends, Air Force veteran Tom Albinger of West Bend. They have known each other since their school days and signed up for and were accepted to the Honor Flight at the same time.

Ken WeddigWeddig grew up on Edgewood Lane in West Bend and recalls walking his coaster wagon past the recently demolished West Bend Lithia building as he and a friend would be going to pick up an ice block for the ice chest at home.

“They didn’t have refrigerators back then,” Weddig said. On their way home the Lithia workers would offer the approximately 8-year-old lads a brew. Claiming they were too young, they would be offered “just a sip then.” Weddig did not disclose whether or not they took up the offer. “It was the German way,” Weddig said.

Weddig also remembers waiting for the trains to come in at the old West Bend Depot when he was nearing his teenage years. The engineer befriended him and allowed him to carry the oil can and let him oil the bearings on the train. The engineer wouldn’t allow him to help with the coal for fear “your Mother would come after me for that.”

After graduating high school in 1960, Weddig spent a few years in California where the draft notices kept catching up with him as he traveled. As he did not want to be drafted, Weddig enlisted in the United States Coast Guard in May of 1964, though that was not what he originally planned.

He was on his way to sign his paperwork for enlistment in the US Navy when he was approached by some friends who sold him on the Coast Guard. Weddig said he was told it was different than any other Armed Forces branch as it was more like living at home and you could make rank much more quickly as it was a smaller branch of service. “I really liked being in the Coast Guard. I could have kicked myself for not staying in,” said Weddig.

Weddig began his military service with boot camp in New Jersey and was subsequently stationed briefly in Kenosha, WI. He was transferred to the Two Rivers Group Office Search and Rescue, then to the Detroit Group Office that encompassed 35 shore units along the Great Lakes where he spent 2-1/2 years. He recalls a time when 17 cases were called in from five different units and he had to organize the search and rescue efforts for all of them as a one-man show.

Weddig was on duty when, on November 29, 1966. the call came in for a ship that had been reported missing for 24 hours following a storm.

At the time of the call, there was no helicopter available so Weddig called an Air Force Base out of Detroit that he had ties with to request an assist with air search. News of the event quickly broke on the wire network and his office was flooded with calls from coast to coast. Weddig said he had called in “three shore units, one helicopter, and two 180-foot buoy tenders” to work on the search and rescue effort for the SS Daniel J. Morrell. The catastrophic event turned out to land a place in the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes after the SS Daniel J. Morrell was found to have sunk off the coast of Lake Huron taking 28 of her 29 crewmen with her.

Weddig received a Letter of Commendation for his actions following this event.

Weddig decided to apply for and eventually be accepted to the US Navy Diving School in Key West in 1967. “It was eight weeks of intense training,” Weddig said.

Weddig earned the rank of Yeoman 2nd Class Diverby the time he was discharged in 1968.

Following his honorable discharge, Weddig went to work for his friends at Minz Supply in West Bend where “I married one of the Minz daughters.” Weddig said he and his then-fiancé, Carol, wanted to be married on a Thursday at St. Frances Cabrini. There was a bit of a fuss over the weekday choice but they had their way, were married, and enjoyed a reception at the local Moose Lodge. The two have been married for 52 years and have two sons, Greg and Chris, and twin daughters, Tina and Gretchen, and three grandchildren.

Following 20 years with Minz Supply, Weddig went on to work for Strobel Oil and Propane for 24 years and then retired. He continues to own Hilltop Laundromat in Kewaskum for over 38 years.

To this day Weddig rides his bicycle approximately 2,000 miles a year, though this past year has had its ups and downs and he hasn’t put the miles on he would have liked.

In his spare time, Weddig enjoys woodworking with his lathe on which “you can make almost anything.” He creates salt and pepper shakers, pepper mills, urns for ashes, wooden bowls, and a specialty pizza cutter with a large, comfortable handle. He also restores chairs.

Weddig’s son, Greg, who lives in California, will be accompanying his father on the Honor Flight on November 6.

 

 

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