Bart Edward Wegenke passed away on January 11, 2020 in the arms of his family. He was the loving husband of Mary Jo and adoring father of Sam and Emily Wegenke who survive him. Also surviving him are his parents, Dr. Gary and Sandra Wegenke, brothers Bret (Jeannie) Wegenke, Blake (Krista) Wegenke, and many beloved nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, and treasured friends.
Bart was born in South Bend, Indiana on January 28, 1966, but his family moved to Michigan and he spent most of his childhood in Lansing where he and his buddies, who would remain life-long friends, had the run of Groesbeck’s friendly streets on Lansing’s northeast side. Sunup to sundown, summer days were bikes and baseball, punctuated by whatever mischief the unsupervised boys could find. From the start, Bart’s home was the epicenter of happy, boisterous activity, which was a pattern that would continue throughout his life as his warmth and exuberance drew people to him.
Family always formed the stable core of Bart’s world, beginning with the parents and brothers he loved. When he married his high school sweetheart and established his own family, Mary Jo, Sam, and Emily became the cherished nucleus of his life, the uncontested center around which everything else rotated. Admiring, encouraging, and protecting them, he worked and played and laughed with them and loved them unreservedly.
Bart’s great enthusiasm for life both propelled him into the world and drew friends to him. Following his parents into education, he began his career in the classroom but spent most of his years as a high school principal, a position he loved. Leading the way for his youngest brother, to become an educator. Rising before dawn, he was always the first to arrive at school, where he logged long days, usually dashing home for a quick dinner before returning to school to set an example for his students of good sportsman-and-citizenship, while he supported them on playing fields, in gyms, and on stages. Despite the energy he poured into education, Bart’s love of sport and competition carried him around the country as a basketball official for 37 years, 21 of those at the Division I Level. It was a labor of love and a testament to the breadth of his talent and his passion for life.
Fulfilled by family and work, Bart also treasured his many friends and he made a point to stay connected to them. Generous by nature and habit, he leaves friends who attest to the way he consistently put other people first, who agree that “With Bart, you always left knowing someone cared about you.” Laughing about his famous pep-talks, whether they followed a round of golf or while on a road trip, they acknowledge that in Bart’s case, it was impossible to separate the person from the teacher.
Bart’s colleagues and students will remember him as a dynamic leader who advocated for kids. Full of optimism and energy, he worked tirelessly–and compassionately–to help students and teachers set a high bar for achievement and then clear it. He was a culture-shaper who built trust and camaraderie, who insisted on best-efforts and second-chances. And, like his beloved family and friends, his staff and students knew he always had their backs.
In touching so many lives with kindness and the example of integrity, Bart Wegenke had a great impact on the world. “We have to take the high road,” he told his family at every turn. It was a road he knew well. In pursuing this life well-lived, Bart agreed with Mary Jo that their kids were their finest accomplishment and Sam and Emily return their dad’s regard. “He always made sure people felt included,” Sam recalls. “He was our best cheerleader,” Mary Jo adds. “He was the principal of the high school, but he was our team captain,” Emily concludes. What everyone who knew him agrees on is that Bart Wegenke will be deeply missed and always remembered.
The Wegenke family will receive friends from 2-4 and 5-7 on Friday, January 17th at Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel: 325 W. Washtenaw Street, Lansing. A Memorial Mass will follow on Saturday, January 18th, at 11:00, at The Church of the Resurrection, 1527 East Michigan Avenue in Lansing. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations of backpacks and school supplies to support the students of Haslett Public Schools. Items may be brought to Estes-Leadley and The Church of The Resurrection. Monetary donations may be made out to Haslett Public Schools in Memory of Bart Wegenke and can be mailed to 5593 Franklin Street Haslett, MI 48840.