It was a night full of laughs, tears, but above all a celebration of life.
Jackie Wengert was honored as the Perry County Community Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year at the organization’s annual banquet on Thursday.
Tabbed throughout the night as “Perryville’s biggest fan,” Wengert served as the Perryville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director from 1999-2005. When the position became available again in 2018, she jumped back into the role and led the Chamber for a second time until her retirement in 2022. She was well known among businesses and residents alike as the face of the Perryville Chamber of Commerce.
While it should have been a joyous moment, it was a somber one. Wengert died suddenly on March 2, 2023 at the age of 63. Her husband Steve Wengert, daughters Dawn Ozark, Lisa Marie Joyce, and son Curt Pecaut accepted the award on her behalf.
“It is without hesitation that we proudly accept this award,” Ozark said. “Honored, overwhelmed, and proud are a few of the emotions that we have experienced over the past eight months. We are overwhelmed by the kindness, love and stories shared with our family during this difficult time. When she passed, we had no idea how far her generosity stretched throughout this community.”
What began to emerge in these conversations about Jackie, was also a picture of a life filled with service and generosity to others. Jackie was a philanthropist. She had a knack for finding invisible needs to be met, and then quietly, without fanfare she simply met them. The child at school without proper school supplies would suddenly have a backpack full, or an electric
bill would be anonymously paid for someone having a rough patch. Jackie kept care packages in her back seat so she would always have something to give. Sometimes she simply paid for the order behind her in the drive through because she knew it would brighten someone’s day.
“She just loved doing those types of things for people,” Longtime friend and co-worker at the Chamber Renee Lottes said in a video tribute to Wengert.
Jackie spent her time at the Chamber always giving back, working hard, and doing whatever it took to make the community shine. Jackie believed in giving back to her community and encouraged others to do the same. She enjoyed telling visitors to the office how amazing our small community was and how Perryville had the best stores, churches, restaurants, historic places, etc,” The Chamber of Commerce said in a post shortly following her passing. Jackie was a fountain of knowledge when it came to the history of Perry County and had immense pride for our community. It brought her joy to bring others joy. There was a lot to be learned from her and she has forever left a stamp on this community as a great servant:’”
Wengert’s family announced the formation of the Jackie Wengert Memorial Foundation, which will use its funds to help with projects close to Jackie’s heart and assist those who have unmet needs.
“She truly gave herself to the community and those around her in many ways,” Joyce said. “She taught us to do the same.”