Soldier, baker, fisherman: Perham's Ted Wenner on a life well lived

Ted Wenner and his wife, Doris, have been married for over 55 years. (RosaLin Alcoser / Focus)

Editor's note: This story is from the Feb. 20 Generations special section, inside the Perham Focus.

A lot of Perham folks have fond recollections of the old Perham Bakery.

The bakery stood where Harmonious Architecture now stands, on Main Street downtown. It closed in 2013, but for decades prior to that, it was beloved for its sweet selection of fresh-baked goodies, including cookies, breads, cakes, and the best donuts for miles around.

Perhaps no one has more fond memories of the bakery than Ted Wenner, who owned it for 27 years. He bought the business in 1976, after having already worked there for several years. He sold the business in 2002 to retire.

“It was 2 o’clock in the morning (wake-up time) for 33 years,” Wenner, now 77, said of his working life. “Never missed one day of work in 33 years. Even when my daughters got married and when my mother died — I still went in that morning.”


Wenner lived near the bakery, and would walk to work every morning, even in the winter. On especially cold mornings, Perham police officers would stop by and pick him up, he said, a gesture he really appreciated on those frigid days.

The officers knew Wenner well, since they, “used to come in a lot in the morning, early, for coffee and donuts.”

He also worked with the local police over the years as a victim of crime, as the bakery was broken into three times. It was a good business and it made a living, he said.

“We used to make probably 200 loaves of bread a day,” Wenner recalled, as well as about 1,000 buns a day during busy times like the 4th of July weekend.

At graduation, they’d typically make 30 to 40 cakes. Wenner’s wife, Doris, would decorate them.

“We used to do about 1,000 cakes a year,” Wenner said.

Ted Wenner makes an angel food cake at Perham Bakery, in this photo from 1980. (Submitted photo)


‘I was lucky — very lucky’

Before his life as a baker began, Wenner was a military man. He served in the United States Army for two years, as a Specialist 4th Class in the 56th Signal Company.

“I went to supply school in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, then signal supply school in Fort Gordon, Georgia,” Wenner said. From there, he was sent to Fort Ord, California, to join the 56th Signal Company.

To get to California, he had to take a train to Chicago first, and then another to Fort Ord from there. It was a long trip, and Wenner arrived in California only to find out his company had already left for war games in Germany.

“I get out there and my company is gone,” Wenner recalled.

He did eventually join up with the 56th, spending three days in a reception center before being flown from San Francisco to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he boarded a ship to Germany.

As it turned out, the war games were cut short, and Wenner spent only about a month and a half in Germany before returning to the United States with his company in 1962.

Then the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. An intense 13-day political and military standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba, the crisis sparked international fears of a nuclear war.

“That was a pretty scary deal,” Wenner said. “I was scared that I wasn’t going to see Minnesota again.”


Fortunately, the two countries struck a deal, disaster was avoided, and in July of 1963, Wenner did return to Minnesota again. He was also fortunate in that his time in the service ended before Vietnam broke out.

“I was lucky — very lucky,” he said. “Those boys in Vietnam were pounded.”

The year he returned was the year he met Doris, and the two were married the next year.

Ted Wenner served in the United States Army for two years in the early '60s, as a Specialist 4th Class in the 56th Signal Company. (RosaLin Alcoser / Focus)

‘Life is like going over a rough road’

Wenner has lived his entire life in Perham, with the exception of the two years he served in the Army, and the one year after he and Doris were married, when they lived in Florida.

“I worked on a tropical fish farm down there,” Wenner said.

They were happy to come back home after that, and soon got into the bakery business. Looking back on it all now, Wenner said he’s lived a good, full life, one in which he owned a business, raised a family, and settled down in the hometown he loved. He and Doris bought the house he was raised in in 1988, and still live there today.


“My parents built this house in 1938 for $2,000,” Wenner said.

“I’m glad that I was raised in Perham,” he added, explaining that he got to spend a lot of time playing outside with friends as a kid, as well as go skiing in the winter, go sledding, and fish with his father.

Those early angling experiences fostered a love of the sport within Wenner, and he’s still an avid fisherman today.

“I love to fish, that’s my thing,” he said. “I like being out on the water.”

Nearly every day in the summer, he can be found fishing. The biggest fish he’s ever caught was an 11 lb., 8 oz. walleye, caught on Marion Lake.

His time in the service has always stayed with him, as well, and after his retirement, from 2003-2005, Wenner served as the Perham VFW Post 4020 Commander. He was the Commander when the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum opened.

Wenner is also part of the local Color Guard. The most outstanding Color Guard service he recalls was for a man who had no wife or kids: “He wanted his ashes spread out by his deer stand,” Wenner said. He also wanted his hunting buddies to do the salute.

So that is what they did: Seven guys, dressed in orange, gave a 21-gun salute, Wenner said. Tapes were played, the flag was folded, and the man’s ashes were scattered around his deer stand. That was it.


In his own life, Wenner said there’ve been ups and downs, but he’s enjoyed the good times right along with the bad.

“Life is like going over a rough road, every once in a while you hit a pothole,” he reflected. “I hope when everybody retires they’ve had as much fun as I’ve had in my life.”

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