Valley mourns school board officer |

Valley mourns school board officer

by Kurt Hildebrand
and Sheila Gardner

Douglas County School Board Vice President Connie Wennhold was remembered Thursday as a tireless advocate for children who put her faith and her family first.

Wennhold, 50, was found dead Wednesday at her Ruhenstroth home. She is believed to have died of natural causes, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, pending autopsy results.

She attended Tuesday’s school board meeting and appeared fine, according to Superintendent Carol Lark.

“We drove down together from the board meeting,” she said. “She was very enthusiastic. She just seemed so upbeat. This is unbelievable.”

Fellow school board member Sharla Hales said she and Wennhold were active in the Gardnerville Elementary School parent teacher association before either was on the board and were longtime friends.

“She was sincere to the core,” Hales said. “She was unassuming, always good-humored and patient.

“She was gracious to everyone and she could see people’s good intentions, even when she might not agree with their position.”

As school board president, Hales said Wennhold moved the board forward during her tenure.

“She managed to be firm when she needed to be firm and kind when she needed to be kind,” she said. “She was just a very, very dear person. For me the board work will never be the same and I will just miss her.”

John Louritt, who joined the school board within a couple months of Wennhold, said she was one of the best members with whom he worked.

“She was a hell of a board member,” Louritt said. “She always had the kids’ best interests at heart.”

Louritt, who attended Tuesday’s school board meeting with Wennhold, said he was shocked at the news.

“I am at a loss for words. We were just kind of joking Tuesday night and talking,” he said. “She was looking forward to the NCAA basketball tournament. She was supporting Washington State.”

Former school board member Cheri Glockner said it had been an honor to serve for two years with Wennhold.

“My heart goes out to her husband and her boys. This will certainly be a loss of leadership for the Douglas County School District.”

“I first became familiar with Connie very early in my term on the board,” said former board member George Echan. “She managed to take a pretty divisive board at that time and champion changes in the (school) calendar which always is extremely difficult to do.

“She showed tremendous grace, evenness and balance in her demeanor and her obvious concern for kids.”

Echan said after Wennhold was elected to the board he “got to know what a completely gentle soul she was.”

“It always made me extremely happy to see her. She was extremely valuable in balancing and bringing the board back to focus on the students and real in-the-trenches problems,” Echan said.

“Her passing absolutely took my breath away. You hate to lose somebody so young and so important to her family and the community.”

Wennhold was appointed to the school board in August 2001 and ran unopposed for re-election in 2002 and 2006. She is a member of Carson Valley United Methodist Church.

She and her husband, George, would have been married 22 years on March 23. They have two children, Adam and Aaron. Adam is in college and Aaron attends Douglas High School.

George Wennhold said his wife was born in Spokane, Wash., and came to Carson Valley after she graduated from college.

“She went to Washington State University and was very proud of it,” he said.

George, a Douglas County bailiff, said the family is reeling from her loss.

As a businesswoman, Wennhold began Bouquet & Bouquet in Minden in the late 1970s. She moved the business to its present Gardnerville location.

As an activist, she was an outspoken proponent of consolidating Douglas County school calendars. In 2000, school board members adopted a calendar modeled on the “Connie Calendar,” which she proposed as a compromise between traditional and year-round calendars.

She was a contributor to the community. She was active in Soroptimists and was chairman of the board of directors of the Partnership of Community Resources and had been a member for four years.

“She brought to the partnership a renewal and energy that was so meaningful to us,” said executive director Cheryl Bricker.

“Connie often told me the two most important areas where she could volunteer were the school district and the partnership.

“Her commitment to caring for youth and families showed up in her faith and the way she tackled day-to-day issues,” Bricker said.

“Her loss is tremendous. You cannot measure this loss,” she said.

As a member of the partnership and a school board member, Wennhold’s mission was tackling substance abuse issues, Bricker said.

“Connie wanted substance abuse rates down and kids not starting to use drugs for the first time,” Bricker said.

Services for Wennhold are pending.