LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Wendell Lee Buntain, 79, passed away July 23, 2014, in the company of his wife and son, Nicholas, at La Posada, the Mesilla Valley Hospice Center, Las Cruces, N.M., after an 18-month battle with cancer.
He was born in December 1934 in the family home in Columbia City to William Arthur and Helen Oliver Buntain of Larwill. He was married to his wife of 59 years, Helen Marie Gregory Buntain, who survives.
He was the only son of seven children, born and raised in Larwill, population roughly 300, but at heart he was never a “small-town boy.” Rather he was a wanderer and explorer, as he discovered when his Army troop ship landed in Bremerhaven Germany in 1954. From that time until his death, he longed to travel, to see and experience exotic locations and new things, never content in one place for too long. Ultimately, he and his family did experience an amazing variety of remote places and rare things, many of which are inaccessible today. His entire family is richer and wiser from their experiences.
He graduated from Larwill High School in 1952, and attended International Business College, Fort Wayne. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army and served from May 1954 until April 1956. During this period, he was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division located in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. While stationed in Bad Kreuznach, he married his high school sweetheart Helen Marie Gregory.
The two years he and Helen were stationed in Germany planted the seeds of wanderlust that eventually defined nearly all of their professional lives.  Following his honorable discharge from the army, he attended Indiana University where he earned a bachelor’s and eventually a master’s degree in education. He began his career teaching in Bloomington and Syracuse before becoming a school principal in Lucerne.  
In 1966 he was hired as a school principal by the Department of Defense Dependents Schools and began a 26-year overseas odyssey that would take him and his family around the globe. This odyssey began when Wendell, Helen and their sons, Gregory “Greg” and Nicholas “Nick,” established residency in Okinawa, at that time still a U.S. possession; living multiple places on the island during their four-year stay. Their daughter Julianne “Julie” was born in the Camp Kue Army Hospital in 1967. While in Okinawa he and his family toured the Pacific region, including Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other locales.
In 1970 the Buntains moved to Büren Germany, where he was the principal at a three-teacher school offering kindergarten through eighth-grade instruction. He was not only principal, but also one of the school’s three teachers instructing sixth through eighth grade in a single room – including his oldest son Greg’s sixth and seventh grades. In 1972 the family moved to Friedberg Germany where he was principal at the Bad Nauheim Elementary School. While in Germany the Buntains toured and camped across Europe.
In 1974 Wendell accepted a job at Clark Air Base in the Philippines where he oversaw the completion and opening of McArthur Elementary School and served as principal until 1977 when the family moved to Misawa, Japan. He was principal of the Misawa Air Base Elementary School until 1980 when he accepted a job as principal in Butzbach, Germany. Wendell worked the rest of his career at various locations in Germany as a principal and finally in school accreditation until his retirement in 1992 while living in Mörfelden, Germany.
Wendell and Helen retired to Las Cruces, N.M., in 1992, joining their children, who were all living and working in New Mexico at that time. He and Helen remained active, traveling and camping until unable to do so due to his illness. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather until his death.
Also surviving are two sons, Greg (and spouse Patti), Los Alamos, N.M., and Nick (and spouse Irene), Las Cruces; a daughter, Julie (and spouse Mike)  Pannell, Springfield, Va.; four grandchildren: Christopher, Los Alamos; Benjamin and Wilton, Las Cruces; Matthew, Springfield; and four sisters: Vera Clark and Doris Todd, both of Warsaw; Alice Brumfield, Claypool; and Louise Dacey, Columbus, Ohio. Preceding him in death were sisters Ardith Rager and Gertrude Maggert.
There will be no public service, as he was a very private person and desired his family scatter his ashes, along with their beloved dog for 17 years, Pete, in a beautiful and secluded favorite camping location high in the Jemez Mountains with no fuss.
The family welcomes and encourages donations in his memory to the Mesilla Valley Hospice, Las Cruces N.M., who made his final days comfortable and peaceful.
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