Wendell Chapin

Wendell Chapin

By Mary Kay Gominger

Wendell Chapin was drafted into the Navy in 1943. After the war, he deciding Navy life just wasn’t for him so he got out. Two year later, Wendell joined the Air Force and spent the next 20 years serving his country. His specialty was aircraft maintenance.

“When I first went into the military,” Wendell recalls, “I remember asking what the 10 cent deduction was for. They told me about an old folks home and I just never forgot about this place.”

In all, Wendell served during three war periods – World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Prior to going in the Navy, Wendell, a Michigan native, had dropped out of school after the 9th grade to work. Times were tough and he recalls working backbreaking manual labor for $7 a week. He worked hard though, and saved what money he could. He got a break when he got hired to buff and polish floors for $30 a week. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. Wendell saved enough to buy his first brand new car, a 1941 Ford Super Deluxe and he got it for $835. Gas, he remembers, was 18 cents a gallon.

“We had one store in town where you could buy 9 gallons of gas and 2 lbs. of sugar for $1,” Wendell recalled.

Wendell Chapin Wendell worked in the civilian world after military retirement installing and servicing all types of banking equipment such as ATMs, depositories, and safe deposit boxes. Over the years he became well versed on all types of machinery used in the banking industry.

Nowadays Wendell spends his time helping others or working with his crafts. He volunteers at the Chaplain’s Office, helping with Protestant Bible study Sunday mornings before services and he also coordinates Christian movie night every Thursday in the Meditation Room.

“It’s not a big crowd but I always have some people that come to the Thursday night movie,” Wendell said. “I enjoy watching Christian movies and like to share them with whoever wants to come and watch them.”

When he’s not volunteering, Wendell works on his crafts. He carves beautiful pen and pencils sets from exotic woods from all over the world. Some of his work is on display in the showcase on the ground floor of the Sheridan building. Wendell also makes unique clocks and mirrors. He has a workspace over at the Wood Hobby Shop and he also has sewing and embroidery machines in his room and that allows him to work anytime he wants.

Wendell has three children and they all followed his path and made careers in the armed services. His oldest, a son, received a full four-year ROTC scholarship to the University of Michigan and retired from the Army. His other two children - a daughter and son - retired from the Air Force.

“It’s all about attitude,” Wendell said in an explanation about his life at the AFRH. “I believe you have to keep doing what you can do. I might be 87 years old but I still walk to and from the chow hall three times a day. From my room in the Sheridan, that’s a pretty good walk,” he said with a laugh.