Obituary: Wendy Oppenheimer, 1946-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Wendy Oppenheimer, 1946-2020 

Loving wife and mother to be honored with a "book nook" at Shelburne library

Published June 3, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated June 3, 2020 at 12:49 p.m.

click to enlarge Wendy Oppenheimer
  • Wendy Oppenheimer

Wendy Dale (Werthamer) Oppenheimer passed away on May 9, 2020, just minutes before Mother’s Day in Bradenton, Fla. She was born the second of four daughters in Springfield, Mass., on August 23, 1946, to Norma (Bailey) Werthamer and Erwin “Dutch” Werthamer. She grew up and attended public schools in Agawam, Mass., where, in 1962, she met her high school sweetheart, Bob.

Just after their marriage in 1968, Bob began his 20-year career as an Air Force doctor — and, in 1971, with the birth of their first child, Wendy settled into the role she was meant to play: wife and mother. Her love, wisdom, patience and good humor were an inspiration to her children, and she gave them the two things all parents should give their children: the roots of family and home, and wings to fly away on their own.

In 1986, with her family proudly looking on, she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in art history from the University of Maryland’s overseas campus in Germany, where they were stationed from 1982 to 1988. This experience gave them a home base from which to launch their world travels, something Wendy always wanted to do and something she wanted her children to experience.

They moved to Vermont in 1988 upon Bob’s retirement from the Air Force. In later years, she and Bob lived the “snowbird life” — spending half the year in Bradenton, Fla., and the other half in Shelburne, Vt.

Wendy loved to read, garden and travel. She was an excellent cook and loved trying out new recipes. She had an unquenchable thirst for learning and experienced life to its fullest, always encouraging those around her to do the same. An attentive and compassionate listener, as well as a witty conversationalist, she had many lifelong and new friends, all of whom she valued deeply.

Family and home were dear to Wendy. Her heart was large, and her capacity to love, limitless. Her smile could light up a room. Being a parent or grandparent was never a job to her — it was her life’s work and a calling she took very seriously.

Bob and Wendy’s union was a 52-year fairy-tale romance and a marriage of lifelong devotion. Their love was a joy to witness and an inspiration for the rest of us.

Besides her husband, Wendy leaves three children: Libby and her husband, Michael; Jess and his wife, Karen; and Elsa and her husband, Mark. Because all lived nearby, the family was able to spend much time together.

She also leaves seven grandchildren: Grace and Willa Johnson; Miles, Emma and Delaney Bosma; and Miranda and Amelia Oppenheimer, all of whom orbited around her like she was their sun.

In addition, Wendy leaves three devoted and loving sisters: Donna Modzelewski of Agawam, Mass.; Lisa Courtney of North Guildford, Conn.; and Lynn Werthamer of Goshen, Mass. The four were often separated by geography but were never far away in spirit. They spoke almost daily, vacationed together with their families and on sisters-only trips, and spent holidays together with their spouses, children and grandchildren.

Wendy’s unexpected death has been a tremendously sad time for our family; however, it has brought us closer than ever, something that would have made her so happy. While we have shared many tears since her passing, we have also shared much laughter, reminiscing about past experiences. Wendy always felt like home and motherhood, love, grace and beauty, all perfectly put together.

Shortly after her death, the family chose to honor her life in a very personal and intimate way. On a picture-perfect Saturday morning, the kind Wendy adored, Bob and their three children waded into the warm, clear waters off their favorite beach on Anna Maria Island, Fla. Together they stood in a close circle and placed plumeria and gardenia blossoms, hand-picked by Bob, in the water. After sharing special words, they sprinkled some of her ashes within the circle and sang a playful lullaby that Wendy frequently sang to all her children and grandchildren:

Swimming, swimming in my swimming hole,

When days are hot and nights are cold in my swimming hole,

Breaststroke, side stroke, fancy diving too,

Don’t you wish you didn’t have anything else to do?

The family is setting up a children's book-nook at the Shelburne Pierson Library in her honor. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in her name toward this space. Donations can be sent to the Pierson Library, c/o the Wendy Oppenheimer Book Nook, 5376 Shelburne Rd., Shelburne, VT 05482 or made online at

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