Greg Wenger, 1931 – 2016 Photographer who chronicled Marina del Rey history was also a community leader
By Gary Walker, Christina Campodonico and Joe Piasecki
Greg Wenger, a photographer whose images captured the zeitgeist of Marina del Rey for three decades and later formed the bedrock of the Marina del Rey Historical Society’s collections, died on Oct. 1 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, widow Mimi Wenger said.
Wenger, a Korean War veteran who moved to the marina in 1969 and soon enlisted himself as the fledgling Argonaut’s first photographer, would have turned 85 later this month.
“He was just an institution here. He has made and recorded the history of the marina,” said Willie Hjorth, who cofounded the historical society with Wenger.
In addition to his photography, Wenger played an important role in the civic and business affairs of the Marina.
Wenger served as a board member, president and honorary mayor of the former Marina del Rey Chamber of Commerce, for which he organized a 1995 luncheon to honor famed marine biologist Jacques Cousteau.
“He was a great facilitator in bringing people together,” said Diane Barretti, who served with him on the chamber board.
Wenger was also an alternate director of the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau and a board member for the nonprofit Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station Support Unit and Community Advisory Committee. He was president of a fundraising group for the Lloyd Taber-Marina del Rey Library, which named its community room after Greg and Mimi Wenger in 1999.
“He always found time to volunteer for community betterment projects,” said Martin H. McCarthy, a chamber colleague and fellow photographer.
Like many Southern California transplants, Wenger’s love for Marina del Rey had much to do with the weather.
“After my bar mitzvah in 1968, my parents asked me if I wanted to take a trip or get a new car. I suggested that we take a trip to California. In the two weeks that we were here we went everywhere — from Palms Springs to Disneyland to Santa Barbara,” recalled son Howard Wenger. “Six weeks later we’re back in New York and we’re snowed in. We watched slides of California that my dad took and my parents decided, ‘What are we doing here?’”
Wenger set up shop in the marina as a commercial photographer but yearned to chronicle the evolution of Marina del Rey, which had only been built a few years before he arrived.
During a stroll around the harbor on Nov. 25, 1971, he told his wife the marina should have its own newspaper. When they got home, the very first edition of The Argonaut was waiting by the doorstep.
Wenger called Argonaut founder David Asper Johnson, went to work the next day and kept going for more than 30 years.
“Anybody who was anybody in the marina was photographed by Greg,” Barretti said.
Wenger’s photos were “infused with his talent for making an image seem real and alive,” Hjorth said.
The enormous photo archive that Wenger created eventually went to the Marina del Rey Historical Society.
His son Howard Wenger, the society’s vice president, described the photos in the society’s public gallery at Fisherman’s Village as his father’s legacy.
“I’m surrounded by his life’s work. He really captured the marina in its infancy, when a lot of things were just starting,” Howard Wenger said.
Wenger is also survived by his son Stuart Wenger, granddaughters Kirsten, Jillian and Natalie, great-grandson Liam and great-granddaughters Ally and Charlee.
Per his wishes, Wenger’s remains will be cremated and there will be no funeral.
The family asks that any memorial donations be made to the historical society.