Last week, Jeffrey Wenger, owner of the Bridgeport Marina and RV Park, died at age 62. Tom Lowe, owner of Sierra Drifters Guiding Service, called Wenger an “Eastern Sierra icon,” and said that, although Wenger did not wish for a memorial service, he anticipates one. “People need it,” said Lowe.
Wenger took over ownership of the Marina and RV Park over a decade ago. According to Lowe, Wenger worked hard, and no task was beneath him. “He was the longest standing manager in the grips of the worst drought in history. He ran the register, put the boats in the water, even scrubbed toilets.” He was known for his gregariousness. Ken Hoffman, a friend and Bridgeport-based fishing guide who worked out of the Bridgeport Marina described Wenger as “a guy with a big heart who might yell at you one day and spend four hours trying to dig you out of the mud the next. The man had a big heart.”
Wenger was born and raised in the Eastern Sierra. He was adopted as a small child by Bob and Dorothy Wenger, who owned the Convict Lake Resort from 1962 to 1982. He loved the backcountry, skiing, fishing, and wild places. He was a member of Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol for many years. Wenger was also an avid horseman, and was devoted to his horse of 25 years, an appaloosa named Handy. They liked to go swimming together on hot days at the Bridgeport Reservoir.
Mammoth Mountain co-worker Cat House recalled Wenger’s insatiable sense of adventure, saying, “That man lived with his whole heart…he did everything with so much joy. Jeffrey was one of the good ones.” He was known to lead that charge to sneak in runs down the Avalanche Chutes on powder days. Lowe recalled a few late-night dance parties in the Convict Lake Resort dining room from that era which culminated in midnight ski runs off the roof, instigated by Wenger. “I thought I was a good skier, but he kicked my a**. He was an amazing patrolman,” said Lowe. During the drought years, Wenger was known to don his wet suit and go surfing at the Bridgeport Reservoir, mid-winter. Last winter, he was part of a two-person crew who delivered a 48-foot sail boat from New York to Fort Lauderdale, and ultimately to Puerto Rico. He liked to fish in Alaska. He once sailed from Boston to Cuba.
Liz DesRochers, who managed Wenger’s business website for 8 years, said he was loved by the entire community. “He was high-spirited, extremely enthusiastic, full of life, and a prankster. There was always some adventure around the corner,” said DesRochers.
“He just epitomized that generation of locals, of old-school Mammoth, of what it meant to grow up in these mountains and fight to carve a life out for yourself here,” said Lowe. “It was his insatiable desire for adventure… he was one of those guys who would do anything to continue to be able to live here in the Eastern Sierra, and he did it all. He cherished the backcountry, and he persevered and he never gave up at anything he did.”