A Loving Tribute to Wayne Wilpitz from his Family
On November 29th, 1932, in Humble, Texas, at the family homeplace, Jewel Augusta and Louis Wayne Wilpitz Sr. welcomed their firstborn son, Louis Wayne Wilpitz Jr. into their family. Wayne’s early life was spent living with his family on the Tom O’Connor oil and gas lease and ranch, in Refugio County, Texas, where his father was the production superintendent for the Quintana Petroleum Company owned by the Cullen family. Wayne’s stories of growing up in Refugio are legendary and are memories his children and grandchildren will cherish for the rest of their lives. Nolan Ryan is not the only famous athlete from Refugio. Wayne was awarded the distinction of being the youngest letterman in varsity high school football in Texas at 13 years of age. When he was 15 years old, during a revival at the First Methodist Church, led by the evangelistic team of Bill Best and Larry Meredith from the SMU Perkins School of Theology, Wayne gave his heart to Jesus Christ. He was never the same. That decision would change the course of his life and eternity. He graduated from Refugio High School in May of 1949 at the age of 16. By fall of that year he was on his way to college at Sam Houston State. His love and passion for Jesus were evident from the fact that his dorm mates gave him the nickname, “preacher” because he was always talking to them about the Lord Jesus. After a year at Sam Houston State, a friend talked him into transferring with him to the University of Houston. Wayne wanted to earn a degree in radio and television and focus on becoming a meteorologist. However, the guidance counselor discouraged that and told him “the real money is in business”. Wayne graduated in 1954 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree.
Because he was “1-A” on the list to be drafted by the military, he couldn’t get a company to hire him. After graduation, for almost two years, he lived at home with his parents and worked for Quintana Petroleum. Each day was an emotional roller coaster waiting to hear whether or not he had been drafted. Wayne had a friend who badly wanted to be a naval aviator. One day he convinced Wayne to take him to the recruiting office. While there the recruiter talked Wayne into taking the test, which he passed, then the physical, which he passed and then showed him the advantages of entering officer candidate school versus being drafted in the army. After much hesitation, Wayne decided to join the Navy and begin Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. After completing the demanding 13-week training program, Wayne earned a commission as an Ensign. His next duty station was Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida to enter the flight program to become a Naval Aviator. In Pensacola, Wayne completed flight training and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1956. Following flight training, Wayne was assigned to fly carrier-based jets including the A-3D Skywarrior which was the largest carrier-based jet at the time. Wayne left active duty in 1959 but continued to fly and serve in the Naval Reserves until 1986.
Wayne said even though he didn’t understand it all at the time, he soon realized that one of the main reasons that God guided him along the path that led to Pensacola, was to meet his future wife. It was while Wayne was in flight school in Pensacola that his world was turned upside down when he met this beautiful young woman by the name of Ruth Marie Kellum. This handsome young Naval Officer and this beautiful preacher’s daughter fell in love and were married in August of 1956. Over the next seven years the Lord would bless them with four children, Louis, Scott, Kimberly and Carol. Then five years later, Todd was born. To meet the needs of his growing family, Wayne completed his active military commitment and transitioned into the business world. However, because of his love for his country and the military, he continued serving in the naval reserve for nearly 27 years, retiring as a Captain in the Navy in 1986.
Wayne was also an outstanding salesman. For years Wayne’s job required him to travel all over the country, but no matter what city he was in on a Wednesday night, he would find a good church to attend. Whether it was attending First Baptist in Atlanta with Dr. Charles Stanley, Dr. David Jeremiah in California, or Dr. Adrian Rogers in Memphis, Tennessee, Wayne would be in church, worshipping the Lord, even while on the road. His work and travels created many opportunities for him to talk to people about Jesus. Whether it was someone sitting next to him on a plane, a client or co-worker, Wayne was faithful to witness to them about Jesus. Through the years many of his co-workers asked to talk to him because they saw the integrity of his life, his faith, his love for his family and they wanted what he had. After working for a number of companies during his almost 27 year sales career, he retired in 1986 from North American Phillips.
After Wayne retired from sales and the military, he began his third career; he became a full-time grandfather. The family honestly doesn’t know what they would have done without PawPaw Wayne and MeeMaw Ruth. They were such incredible grandparents. Wayne was such a servant to his family. Whether it was making ham sandwiches for the grandkids, or making fast food runs to Sonic and Braums, or recording the grandkids favorites tv shows to watch with them when they came over, or baby-sitting or showing up at ballgames, church events, or special activities, Wayne and Ruth were always there for their kids and grandkids. Wayne was always so patient, so sweet, so kind, so helpful, so encouraging, so complimentary, and so generous. He was so much fun and you always left his presence feeling uplifted and encouraged.
Throughout the years, Wayne and Ruth moved to different cities during his career, but no matter where they were, they always became involved in a local church. Eventually they settled in Dallas and joined First Baptist Church in 1971. Libby Reynolds met the Wilpitz family at the altar when they joined and quickly enlisted Ruth and Wayne in the Primary Sunday School division. They continued to serve in the Children’s Ministry for over 40 years as well as other ministries in the church. Wayne also served as a deacon for 45 years and in his later years volunteered as a “Minister of the Day,” a ministry opportunity that he really enjoyed. For 73 years, from the moment he walked down that aisle to receive Christ until the day he died, Wayne loved and served the Lord with all his heart.
Wayne was hilarious. The entire time you were with him you were laughing at his unique way of describing events from his past or circumstances in the present. He was mentally strong, physically tough, and spiritually close to the Lord. He was a consistent, upbeat, and positive person. He was very discerning but not judgmental. He was wise and humble. He never said anything negative about others. He always made you feel special. When you went to his house, he had always bought your favorite soft drink or snack just for you. If you brought him a meal, it was the best meal he had ever had. He took pictures of it, he celebrated it and weeks later would still be talking about how much he enjoyed it. He was generous to his family but also to the Lord through many different ministries he supported through the years. He had great faith and always believed that God was in control and that He would work things out for the best.
After 59 years together, Ruth, the love of his life, departed to be with the Lord. Even though he missed her greatly, he continued to live these last five and a half years with an unwavering faith in Jesus and confidence that they would be united again. But he knew God had a purpose in leaving him here and he wanted to make the time he had left count for the Lord. Wayne truly “fought a good fight and he kept the faith” all the way to the end. On February 18th, at the age of 88, he finished the race having given it his all. It seems likely that when he crossed the finish line and entered into heaven, the first person waiting to meet him was his beloved and precious, Ruth. What a reunion that must have been! Can you imagine the smile on his face and joy in his heart, when he saw Jesus and no doubt heard Him say, “Well done, Wayne, my good and faithful servant.”
Wayne was preceded in death by his parents, and his brother, Robert Wilpitz.
He is survived by his children Louis W. Wilpitz III, Scott Wilpitz and wife, Sarah, Kimberly Wilpitz, Carol Meredith and husband, Glenn, and Todd Wilpitz.
Grandchildren: Louis W. Wilpitz IV and wife, Jenni, Joel Wilpitz and wife, Bailey, Kel Wilpitz and wife, Kelly, Emily Wilpitz, Nathan Hagin and wife, Cassie, Ruthie Hagin, Caleb Hagin and wife, Erin, Brett Meredith, Rachael Andrade and husband, Nathan, Elizabeth Wilpitz, Kathryn Wilpitz and Olivia Wilpitz and 14 great grandchildren. Also his sister, Beverly Wilpitz McLaughlin, sister-in-law Laurie “Tootsie” Isidori (Veto), brother-in-law Marcus Kellum (Judy) as well cousins, nieces and nephews.
Memorial services will be held Thursday March 11, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. at First Baptist Dallas, Historic Sanctuary, 1707 San Jacinto, Dallas, Texas 75201. A private burial will be held at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery.