Our beloved, John Francis Wendell, went home to Jesus on May 9, 2022 at age 68. He was blessed to spend his final hours surrounded and comforted by his loving family.
John was born on June 1, 1953 to parents, William James and Florence Inez Wendell, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A dedicated and loving husband, father, grandfather, and brother, he is survived by many loved ones, including his wife, Cyndea Wendell; sisters, Nancy McMahon and Kate DiRaimo; children, Amy Wendell (David), Jaiya Wendell, Brooke England (Kenny), and Cory Quire; and granddaughters, Brianna England, Skyler Wendell, and Shiloh Hawkins; as well as numerous in-laws, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
Johnny Wendell was raised in Norfolk, Virginia where he served as an altar boy and a paper boy who delivered his route from his bicycle. All of John's family loved singing and he discovered his passion for music early, in elementary school, by singing and playing a song on guitar that aired on a local TV broadcast for his Spanish teacher’s class. He eagerly continued to practice guitar and played in bands with his childhood buddies. As he grew into a talented young man, he graduated from Norview High School and played in various bands at local teen dances. He easily mastered multiple instruments, including lead and rhythm guitar (electric and acoustic), mandolin, lap steel guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, drums, and any percussion or wind instrument that he had the opportunity to play. Throughout his years, wherever John was, there was sure to be music, singing, fun and laughter. He brought joy to all who were blessed enough to be a part of his life. During his early music career "John Boy" Wendell played in many bands including The Continentals, The Notorious Younguns, Children, Men in Trees, Cooter Browne Band, Willie Paul, and Crosstown (and others) from Norfolk, Virginia to Athens, Georgia; and from Nebraska to California. John was a natural talent and won contests while performing in bands. With a career that eventually spanned over 50 years he was known as a musician extraordinaire.
When John and Cyndea met, they shared their love of music and formed the all original music, alternative rock band, OtherWise, in Florida in the mid 80's. They performed in numerous clubs, venues, and events in St. Pete, Tampa, and other surrounding beach cities. They also played as a duo (Woofer 'n Tweeter) frequenting festivals, beach bars, restaurants, and hotels. Together they moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1988 to hone their songwriting abilities. In Music City, they mentored under, and wrote songs with, famed songwriter/producer, Jack Keller, as well as many other very talented songwriters. Their large catalog of songs includes cuts by both domestic and international independent artists covering several genres (Gospel, Rock, Blues, Christian, Americana, Novelty, and more) and have been heard and enjoyed all around the world. They had opportunities to play in such famous places as The Bluebird Café and Tin Pan South in Nashville, and at open mics, "in the rounds", at festivals, churches, nursing homes, and other clubs and venues in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida.
John also wrote many touching, heart-warming personal and love songs for his family members. And he could literally make music anywhere, anytime, from anything. Like magic, and seemingly “out of thin air”, he could always somehow coax a beautiful melody from whatever available items/objects there were in his immediate vicinity.
Also, a gifted builder of unique one-of-a-kind instruments, he especially enjoyed designing and building cigar box guitars with matching amps. Each one was designed for a specific individual –- some commissioned as gifts and some built for friends and family. He also designed a line of “post-apocalyptic” kalimbas, and experimental percussion instruments made from found-objects –- essentially playable “assemblage” art pieces. And everyone loves his rustic hand-carved Appalachian dancing men. He’d make trips into the woods to select and cut the exact perfect branches needed for each head, body, leg, foot, arm, and hand. Then he’d carve and assemble each man and help them come alive by dancing them on the wooden paddle “stages” he designed to achieve the very best sound quality and movement.
John was also a master house painter. It gave him great joy to please his clients and make their surroundings beautiful. He worked on celebrity homes in Nashville, Tennessee and many multi-million dollar homes in Florida and Tennessee. He never needed to advertise because his new clients always came through word-of-mouth referrals from his many highly satisfied current customers. He had a well-deserved reputation as "the best man to call if you wanted the highest quality painting projects for your home." His work was exquisite, and many people today still get to enjoy his handiwork.
John and Cyndea raised their children on the sunny beaches of St. Petersburg, Florida and in Nashville, Tennessee before retiring to their log cabin in the beautiful hills of Fairview, Tennessee. John became a man after God’s own heart and was dedicated to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone around him. And we know he’ll be right there in front smiling and waiting to cheerfully greet each of us as we walk through those Pearly Gates of Heaven. God bless him abundantly.
We will have family celebrations of John's wonderful life in the Nashville area as well as in Norfolk, Virginia.