James Gottlieb Wenzel

James Gottlieb Wenzel


James Gottlieb Wenzel, age 96, entered gently into the presence of his Lord Jesus, surrounded by family at his home in Saratoga, California, on October 26, 2022.  James was born on October 16, 1926 , in Springfield Minnesota, the 3rd child (of 4) and only son of Elvira and Gottlieb Wenzel. After graduating from Springfield HS in 1944, he joined the Navy to train as an officer, but due to the end of the war, never saw active duty.  He went to the University of Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Aeronautical Engineering with high distinction in 1948, as well as a Master’s of Aeronautical Engineering in 1950.  While finishing his degree, he was taken by his best friend on a blind date and met the love of his life, Elaine Joyce Abrahamson.  After just two weeks she agreed to be his wife.  They were married at Glendorado Lutheran Church in Princeton, Minnesota in June 1950 and drove off on their honeymoon, leaving Minnesota to start their new life together in San Diego, California.  

After starting his career at Convair (formerly Consolidated Vultee) as an aeronautical engineer, Jim joined General Dynamics Corporation in 1956 as the assistant to the Senior VP of Engineering; he worked as the coordinator of anti-submarine warfare programs. In 1958, he was promoted to management for government planning.   He left General Dynamics in 1960 and joined Lockheed Missiles & Space Company in Sunnyvale, California. In 1962 he brought his family with him to settle in Saratoga.  He led the Ocean Systems Division until 1977, when he went on to serve as president and chairman of Lockheed’s Ocean Minerals Company until 1984.  He then retired to start his own company Marine Development Associations Inc. 

His many achievements include memberships in the Royal Aeronautical Society (1955), the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (1965), the Naval Academy of Engineers USA (1975), and he was a Fellow of the Marine Technology Society and associate fellow of the Aeronautical Sciences (1982).

In addition to his engaging work life, he joined the Board of Regents of California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, in 1986, from which he received an honorary doctorate in Humane Arts in 1990.  He also served as president and chairman of Santa Clara County’s Junior Achievement from 1976-1981. 

Ever the evangelist and devoted to his faith, Jim was active in his church as a choir member and soloist, Sunday school teacher, and Yolkfellows member. Jim also chaired Lutheran Lay Renewal Northern California, from 1975-1981. He was the ongoing Chaplain of the Saratoga Men’s Club and served one year as its president (2000).

For all his many work accomplishments, when he was with family or friends he was always ready for fun.  He loved a good card game, a day out on the lake fishing, or working in his shop on wood projects. He loved to dance a step or two with his bride on the dancefloor or in the living room. He never tired of travel to experience new places, and had a contagious passion for scuba diving.

Jim is survived by his four children Lori Lynn Taylor (Ross), Jodi Ann Bjurman (Phillip), Sheri Lee Wenzel (Beth), and James Gottlieb Wenzel II (Kellie), as well as by his sister Audrey Schubbe and grandchildren Douglas, Kelli and Daniel Taylor, and David, Derek and Gregory Bjurman.

Family and friends are invited to his visitation on Friday, November 18th from 6 to 8 pm at Lima Family Santa Clara Mortuary, 466 N. Winchester Blvd, Santa Clara CA.  Jim will be laid to rest next to his bride of 62 years at Madronia Cemetery in Saratoga, at 11 am on Saturday November 19th.  After internment, a celebration of his life will be held starting 12:30 pm, with a reception to follow at Immanuel Lutheran, 14103 Saratoga Avenue, Saratoga.  The service will be live-streamed on Zoom for those unable to attend in person: https://youtu.be/RbFoWl6NfOE

Deepest gratitude from the family goes to his loving, gentle and tireless caregivers Semira, Jerusalem, and Millie.  They made sure his daily experience was fun, safe, and full of joy (with lots of ice cream).

Patient, purposeful, and kind throughout his life, we will miss this most generous and loving man and look forward to seeing him again in heaven.

Springfield Advance-Press

13 S. Marshall Avenue PO Box 78 Springfield, MN 56087