Frederick “Fred” Richard Ralston Wendel

8/28/34 to 12/30/2020

Frederick “Fred” Richard Ralston Wendel passed away on Wednesday, December 30, 2020, after a lengthy illness.  He was surrounded by family, at home, when he peacefully passed over to Glory.  Fred was born on August 28, 1934 to Frederick Eugene Wendel and Laura Louise (Weil) Wendel, in Santa Barbara, California. 

Fred graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1952.   Fred believed in continual education and attended SB City College, El Camino Junior College, University of Wyoming and Northrop Aeronautical Institute.  

Fred met Mary Jane McDaniel in Cheyenne, Wyoming, while he was stationed at F.E.Warren AFB.  Fred and Mary were wed at the Chapel of the Roses in Pasadena, California, on August 9, 1958.  They moved a few times in the first two years of their marriage, then settled in Santa Barbara, in 1960, where they started and raised their family of four children.  When Fred retired in 1989, they moved to Lander, Wyoming and built their dream home. 

Fred lived a life of service, to God, country and community.  As a boy, Fred served as an Acolyte at the Santa Barbara First United Methodist Church.  As an adult, he could often be found at the same church, working on maintenance and improvement projects.   In his retirement, Fred volunteered with building projects, Thrift Shop projects and served as a Trustee at the Lander United Methodist Church. 

Fred served his country in the US Air Force during the Korean War, at Ashiya AFB in Japan.  Later, he was stationed at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, WY.  He was awarded 4 metals during his enlistment.  After receiving an Honorable Discharge from the Air Force, Fred served as a member of the Wyoming Air National Guard.    

Fred found his true calling when he joined the Santa Barbara County Sheriff Office in 1964.  He declined several promotions above Sergeant because he loved working in the field.  He enjoyed being on patrol, managing the jail and was responsible for the development, construction and management of the firing range.   He also served as the Captain of the Reserves and taught classes for the department.  The feather in his cap was leading the Special Enforcement Team, which, among other duties, was responsible for partnering with the Secret Service to protect President Ronald Reagan when he came to the ranch, affectionately called, “The Western White House”.   He had amazing stories to share about the President and First Lady.  Shortly after retiring in Wyoming, Fred found that he missed law enforcement, so he took a part-time job as a Fremont County Bailiff.  He enjoyed the work and it was a nice way to ease into retirement. 


Fred served his communities in other ways besides law enforcement.  He was one of the three Personnel Commissioners for Goleta Union School District in Santa Barbara, CA.  He was appointed to the Commission by Governor Jerry Brown and served for six years.  From the late 70’s to the mid ‘80’s, Fred welcomed four different international exchange students into the family home.  He was a loving and gracious host father and remained in contact with the students for many years, one of whom is still in regular contact and considered to be a daughter.  When Fred retired and moved to Wyoming, he joined Rotary International and faithfully served at events, acquired and renovated a food truck for the club and built parade floats.  Fred’s other passion was the Museum of the American West, where he volunteered 4-5 times a week.  He was involved with acquiring, moving, restoring and maintaining historic Wyoming buildings for the museum.  

Fred is survived by: his wife, Mary Wendel of Lander; daughter, Kim Wendel of Lander; sons, Frederick Kirk (Jackie) Wendel of Lander, Brett Wendel of Lompoc, CA, and Jud (TJ) Wendel of Portland, OR; sister, Marion Kirbey of San Diego, CA; step-sister, Betty Warmack of Colfax, CA; nine grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren, three nephews and six nieces. 

Fred was proceeded in death by: his parents, Frederick Eugene and Laura Louise Wendel; step-mother, Mary Norma Wendel; mother-in-law, Leta McDaniel; brothers-in-law, Beverly Wayne “Sandy” McDaniel and Russell W. Kirbey; sister-in-law, Joyce McDaniel Collier; step-sister Sally Borgora; and niece, Kathleen Collier Melchoir. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Lander United Methodist Church or the Museum of the American West in Lander, WY.    A memorial service will be held during the Summer of 2021.