Longtime Wellington community leader Thomas M. Wenham died Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, at the age of 90.
Wenham’s contributions to the Wellington community were numerous, but he was most proud of being the community’s first elected mayor, and later serving as chair of the Wellington Community Foundation, and as a founder and commander of Wellington’s American Legion Post 390.
Wenham was born Nov. 20, 1932, in Passaic, New Jersey. The two most defining events of Wenham’s younger life occurred in January 1953 — his marriage to his wife Regis, and his deployment the next day to Korea, where he served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. The marriage has lasted nearly 70 years, and his military service instilled in him a deep patriotism and a desire to help his fellow veterans whenever he could.
Returning from the war, Wenham graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and management, and then worked as a civil engineer for the Town of Needham, Massachusetts. He later attended Florida State University, where he earned a certificate as a certified public manager.
The Wenhams moved from Lexington, Massachusetts, where he worked as the assessor, to Florida in February 1981. They settled into a house in the fledgling community of Wellington, where they have lived for the past 41 years.
From 1981 to 1993, Wenham worked for the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, first as director of field evaluations and later as assistant property appraiser. After that, he worked as the courthouse move coordinator, moving all the departments from the old courthouse into the new main courthouse over a two-year period. In 1995, he took a job with Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue as director of capital projects and facilities manager. It was a job he held until his retirement in 2008.
Aside from his many professional accomplishments, Wenham is most well-known for his decades of service to his adopted hometown of Wellington, starting as a volunteer with the Acme Improvement District, the community’s pre-incorporation government. Wenham was on the board of the community group Residents of Wellington and became its president in 1988. He served as chair of Acme’s Utility Review Committee from 1989 to 1994, and also as president of the South Shore 2A Neighborhood Association from 1990 to 1993.
In 1994, Wenham was elected to the Acme Improvement District Board of Supervisors, overseeing drainage, roads and parks in the still-unincorporated community of Wellington. He was active in the successful incorporation effort that followed and was elected to the inaugural Wellington Village Council in 1996.
From 2000 to 2003, Wenham served as Wellington’s third appointed mayor. After a charter change created a directly elected mayor for the Village of Wellington, Wenham ran for and became the village’s first popularly elected mayor in 2003. He continued to serve in that capacity until 2008. While mayor, Wenham was very proud of his work to bring Wellington Regional Medical Center into the community through annexation.
After leaving elected office, Wenham continued to serve the community with the same dedication he had as an elected official. The aesthetics of the Wellington community were always very important to Wenham, and he served as an appointed member of the village’s Architectural Review Board for years, up until the time of his death.
In 2008, Wenham was part of a dedicated group of local veterans who worked to establish an American Legion post in Wellington to serve veterans and provide other community service. Wenham served as the second commander of the new Post 390 and was an active member until his death. He was a frequent speaker at Veterans Day and Memorial Day events in the community, where he was also proud to lay the U.S. Air Force wreath.
Originally created by the Village of Wellington as a fundraising arm, the Wellington Community Foundation lay dormant for years after rule changes stopped that type of municipal-run fundraising. In 2015, the Wellington Village Council decided to hand over the foundation to a community-run board, and Wenham stepped up to volunteer. He helped put together an active board of community leaders dedicated to projects that benefit Wellington’s children, veterans and seniors — three groups near and dear to Wenham’s heart. This revitalized foundation, which Wenham chaired from its inception until his death, will long outlive him, continuing his community service into the future.
In 2018, Wenham suffered a stroke, but even this setback he turned into a chance for community service, working with the American Stroke Association and Wellington Regional Medical Center on a stroke awareness campaign, and undoubtedly helping save the lives of other older Wellington residents.
For his decades of service to the community, Wenham is one of just a handful of people honored by the Village of Wellington to have their name engraved on the Founder’s Plaque on display at Wellington Village Hall.
Memorial arrangements are as follows: A visitation will be held at Palms West Funeral Home (110 Business Park Way, Royal Palm Beach) on Wednesday, Jan. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m., followed by a funeral at Palms West Funeral Home at noon on Thursday, Jan. 5. Interment will follow at 2 p.m. at the South Florida National Cemetery (6501 State Road 7, Lake Worth).
Memorial donations can be made to the emergency room at Wellington Regional Medical Center, the Wellington Veterans Memorial and the Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Clinic (7240 7th Place North, West Palm Beach, FL 33411).