Edwin Jeffrey “Lance” Wentzel was born October 16, 1956, to the late Howard and Irma Wentzel. The youngest of seven children, he was raised in Youngwood, Pennsylvania, a small community close to his heart, where he remained his entire life. He had a passion for life, strong determination and pride, and a willingness to help anyone in need. It came as no surprise that he would become a volunteer firefighter. In his last moments, as he assisted in the search for a missing woman with his department’s K-9 Team, he was struck by a train. Jeff often related that, should he die in the line of duty, we were to stand tall and proud, because he would have done something that was true to his beliefs.
To his family and coworkers, he was Jeff, but to many others he was known as “Lance”, a nickname given to him by childhood friends. He graduated from Hempfield Area High School in 1975 and participated in track, football, and basketball throughout his school years. His dedication to running remained with him throughout his life. He participated in numerous marathons, and his neighborhood misses his friendly waves past their homes on his daily runs.
Jeff was known for his quick smile, sense of humor, and spontaneity. He was never at a loss for words and could put anyone at ease. He was a simple and humble man who wanted nothing more than to be with his family and friends. He loved to travel and shared memories of his adventures with anyone willing to listen.
On February 12, 1979, he joined the Youngwood Volunteer Hose Company No. 1 and became a life member. Throughout his years he served as assistant chief, captain and lieutenant, and assisted with numerous committees. In 2012, he was chosen Firefighter of the Year by his fellow firefighters. He volunteered at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and was a member of the 14th Quartermaster family support group.
His smile, laughter, and touch will forever be missed by his wife, Judith Wentzel; his son, Christopher Wentzel, and daughter-in-law, Nicole; and his son, Jeremy Wentzel. His grandchildren, Nevaeh, Oscar, and Urijah Wentzel, filled him with enormous joy, and he loved hearing their small voices call out, “Pappy!” He is deeply missed as well by his stepsons, Jason and Justin Vestrand. Sharing in our sorrow are his siblings, Philip Wentzel, Judith and Don Wagner, Bonnie and George Kucenic, Connie and Michael Watson, and Doris and Anthony Santone, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
The special bond he shared with his fellow firefighters will live on through their dedication to continue in the same path.