NORTH STAR – When Linda and Leo Wehrkamp were chosen as Parade Marshals for the 66th Annual North Star Picnic Parade, taking place Sunday it brought to their minds so many others in the community that were worthy of the position.
“We were both really humbled and shocked,” Linda said. “It is a great honor. There are so many people, who do so much all of the time.”
Linda and Leo were both born and raised in North Star. Linda describes it as a small town, but a big community. After interviewing Linda and Leo, it was easy to understand her meaning. Father David L. Zink – pastor of both St. Louis Catholic Church, in North Star, and St. Nicholas Catholic Church, in Osgood, said he could not speak too highly of Linda.
“She is a pillar of our parish community,” Father Zink said. “She is not only the director of Religious Education, but has done so much in other ministries. She is a lector, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and our teaching expert.”
Linda has been directing religious education for more than 25 years and has taught longer than that.
“I enjoy working with the children and being able to spread the word of God,” she said. “That is the most important thing in our life. Faith matters. With God you can get through anything. Our parish pastor (Father Zink) always talks about the faith that the community gives him and how he gets energized from the community. Usually you see it the other way around, that we get strength from the pastor. But he always encourages the people in saying, ‘I get faith from you.’”
In an effort to help those less fortunate, Linda, Leo, St. Nicholas and St. Louis parish members and community members have been operating a produce stand St. Maria’s Community Farm, currently at Happy Corner, Leo’s garage lot, since the late 1990s, to benefit of the poor. People donate fruits and vegetables from their gardens or baked goods. All proceeds and leftover produce are given to the St. Vincent De Paul Society, in Dayton and to other area soup kitchens. Leo and Linda also help with taking 100 – 150 casseroles to St. Vincent De Paul four times a year.
Linda has also been a substitute school teacher for about 20 years, an auxiliary member of the North Star American Legion and a member of the Darke County Right to Life. Leo just closed his business Happy Corner Garage, just north of North Star, after 43 years and was a volunteer fireman for North Star Fire Department, for 40 years, serving as Assistant Chief the last several years. His Stepfather Alvin Spraley served 60 years on the volunteer fire department. Fire Chief Bill Roll of the North Star Fire Department said Leo was a very good, organized and dedicated man.
“Leo was a very good firefighter,” Chief Roll said. “During the day when there was a fire, he would close his business to go to the fire. In addition, at the North Star Picnic, until his retirement, he was in charge of the parade for many years and was there for set up and tear down every year.”
Leo also served on the Versailles Exempted Village Schools District Board of Education for 16 years, as a Versailles representative for Miami Valley Career Technology Center for 15 years and is a life member of the Versailles Knights of Columbus. Leo attributes he and Linda’s values of commitment and work ethic to their parents and have taught their children the same. They have four children: Gwenn and Michael Barga, of North Star; Shawn and Georgia Wehrkamp, of North Star; Alyssa and Jake DeMange, of North Star and Sara and Michael Brenner, of Denver, Colorado; 14 grandchildren ( 1 deceased) and they are expecting another one in October.
It seems that everyone else in North Star must have had similar parents.
“In our community, if something needs done and you get the word out to the people, it gets done,” Leo said. “The people of the community are very giving of their time, talent and materials. It is wonderful.”
Linda and Leo have been married 43 years. They attribute that success to common values and faith.
“He has a lot of patience,” Linda said laughing, of Leo. “You have to work hard at a marriage, just like anything else. Everybody has their rough days and some worse than others. We feel very blessed that ours has lasted. There are reasons it doesn’t work for everyone. We are just lucky that ours has.”
While Linda mentioned luck, she said she and Leo place everything in their faith in God. One way Linda practices her faith is by removing worry.
“God is in charge,” she said. “We have to keep that in mind. It is natural to want to worry and to be in control, but we are not. We just have to hand that over. If we don’t, we worry our lives away because we never know what is going to happen.”
While North Star is a small community, Linda said there are many benefits. One is the North Star Community Picnic. Outsiders may wonder what the big deal is, Linda said. There are no rides or outside concessions and everything is done by the community.
“It is just small town community getting together, but it is the funnest thing ever,” she said.