Paving The Way

Guest Correspondence

We lost an amazing leader last month. Wendel Fraser Kent lived more than half of his 92 years of existence in Sarasota. For 58 years, he impacted where he lived and we have all benefitted from his love and labor. After serving in Europe in World War II, Wendel met the love of his life, Evelyn, while in college and received a civil engineering degree. He moved to Sarasota in 1959.

He worked for the City of Sarasota as city engineer. In the private sector, he established a road building company bearing his name and also a paving company, Gator Asphalt. 

At the funeral, I listened to his son Stephen lovingly talk with admiration for his father. He reminded us that as we drove to celebrate Wendel’s life at the Siesta Key Chapel, of which Wendel was a founding member, we likely drove on a road that Wendel built. 

“Wendel connected people.” 

Wendel was a former president of the Sarasota Chamber, a former board member of the Selby Foundation and a director at Palmer Bank. He was a pioneer in almost everything he did. Besides being a founding member of Siesta Key Chapel—he loved that chapel, by the way—he was a founding member of the Sarasota Bay Rotary Club, Enterprise Bank and yes, the Argus Foundation. He served as the first Argus president and served for two terms. He never stopped being involved in Argus. He would regularly attend functions and offer his thoughts, which were full of history and wisdom.

True to the typical Argus Foundation member, Wendel was a tireless advocate of education. This advocacy showed in his push for vocational education and his activity in the Riverview High School Foundation.

At his funeral, they distributed the program in celebration of his life. One line struck me as really summing up Wendel’s contributions to us: “Without fanfare he gave his time, talent and treasure to benefit many causes in Sarasota and around the world.” 

Around the world. His son Peter described what Wendel did halfway around the world that many never knew about. Wendel spread his philanthropy to India. This man of action bought dictionaries, mosquito nets and food for those less fortunate on the other side of the planet. Peter told us that Wendel was concerned about the physical and spiritual wellbeing of those less fortunate. He spread his faith through his love of people. 

I last saw Wendel at our Lifetime Achievement Award dinner in November. He looked around the room and smiled as he saw the business community thriving. He knew that meant more philanthropy to help those less fortunate and a stronger Sarasota.

Sarasota was blessed to have Wendel Kent here shaping our future and giving to his community. He was a shining example of what the Argus Foundation is all about. We would not be the wonderful community we are today without him. Thank you Wendel for giving us what we have today, and we will carry forward in the spirit of love and generosity for the Sarasota that you gave us.

Christine Robinson is executive director of the Argus Foundation.

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