In any compilation of dedicated volunteers across the Northern Neck, Wes Werling would rank in the highest echelon. He is truly indefatigable in the scope of charities he supports with his numerous hands-on endeavors.
Wes and his wife, Gayle, are natives of Louisiana. They met as students at Louisiana State University, where Wes majored in mechanical engineering and Gayle in home economics. Wes is a product of LSU’s Air Force ROTC program, and after graduation and marriage he and Gayle began the course of his extensive service to our country, a path later followed by their daughter, Deborah, who, like her father pursued a distinguished Air Force career.
They were posted to many locations, and while stationed in the Washington area, Gayle joined with another Northern Neck transplant, Mariah Crawford, to use their business and decorative acumen to conduct estate sales in the area. Gayle has a gift for organization in everything she does.
After retirement 20 years ago the Werlings moved to the banks of the Great Wicomico River, where her brother, an architect, designed a Louisiana-style Cajun abode, replete with the columned entry porch that immediately identifies the home with all things Cajun, but unlike homes along the bayous, theirs sits high up with commanding views of the river.
Each year Wes journeys out to South Dakota to pursue his avocation of hunting pheasants. He is accompanied by his faithful Labrador retriever, Jeb, who may not be “bringing home the bacon,” but definitely brings home the pheasants. While closer to home, Wes is an avid fisherman and crabber. Mackerel and hardhead are drawn to his lures. I decline to use the alien term, “croaker,” in place of our Northern Neck term, “hardhead.” I never heard the word “croaker” until I was an adult.
With crabs, Wes departs from the Northern Neck method of steaming them, in favor of the Louisiana boiling approach in which the crabs are cooked in the same pot of boiling water with potatoes and corn-on-the-cob. He eschews Old Bay seasoning and uses Zatarain’s instead.
I need not say that Zatarain’s is a Louisiana company, founded in New Orleans in 1889 by a descendant of Basque immigrants, Émile Zatarain, who was only 23 years old at the time. It is now owned as a division of the McCormick spice company and has no ties to the Zatarain family. Personally, his are the only Zatarain’s boiled crabs I ever have tasted. The culinary approach Wes takes makes for a sumptuous dining experience, even without Old Bay.
For many years Wes has been a guiding light for the local Knights of Columbus, actively supporting their work in raising funds for those with disabilities, as well as collecting money for the purchase of children’s winter coats, which he distributes to needy families in the area. Indeed, his creativity in coming up with new ideas for helping others is admirable in every respect.
Wes brings his military and aviation experiences to play in each of his undertakings. He is uniformly precise, organized and ready to move into action when needed. He also eschews taking the well-merited credit he deserves for his manifold good deeds.
Tomorrow Wes will become an octogenarian. The Northern Neck is a far richer place and many folks are enjoying better lives because of his many kindnesses to countless individuals and causes. As one who has experienced firsthand the delicacies of Cajun cuisine at his hand, I can attest all the more to its and to his multitudinous merits.
Happy Birthday, Wes! You resonate youth!