MINIS COLUMN: Man pursued his passion for all things guitar
In the days before Rose Marie Huff met Michael Francis Went-zell, music was just background to her. But once she met and married him, that changed. Not long after they wed, she started paying attention to the details such as the way musicians' fingers moved as they played their instruments, especially guitars.
Wentzell's love for guitars grew out of a childhood fascination with them.
He had pleaded with his mother for a guitar as a boy in grade school, but had to settle for playing the tuba in the school band.
As a teen, maturing against the backdrop of the '60s, Wentzell got his long-desired instrument, Huff says. He already was cool, but his Silvertone guitar from the Sears & Roebuck catalog made it official.
During the late '80s, Wentzell would sit at his kitchen table in Summerville for hours, assembling and painting electric guitars, and yearning to do more.
Wentzell, born Dec. 17, 1950, died Jan. 30.
"He told me one day that he wanted to go to luthiery school," Huff says.
She had never heard of luthiery school, but learned in the months leading up to the summer of 1990 that it was for guitar-making and repair. That was the first of three summers he spent at the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Phoenix, she says. During Wentzell's third summer there, he built five guitars.
In 1993, Wentzell converted his garage into a workshop, quit his job at Fox Music and opened his own business, Huff says. There, surrounded by the sounds of The Beatles, Eric Clapton and the Grateful Dead, he pursued his passion. He made acoustic guitars and repaired all kinds of stringed instruments.
Local musicians such as Matt Weldon own Wentzell guitars, says Huff. And he worked on guitars for many others, including Edwin McCain.
"He was a 'take-it-or-leave it' kind of guy," she says. "He never took orders for guitars. You didn't call him up and order one. He'd say, 'This is what I've got.' Either you wanted to buy what he had or not."