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Published: Saturday, 4/19/2014

John M. Wehmeyer; 1928-2014: Area commercial photographer drove Morgan horses in shows

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

John M. Wehmeyer, a versatile commercial photographer and partner in a leading Toledo visual production firm who for more than a decade was a Morgan horse enthusiast, died April 11 in Perrysburg Commons, where he lived the past two years. He was 85.

He died after a fall in his apartment at the assisted-living complex, said Larry Bolen, a longtime friend.

Mr. Wehmeyer retired in 1997 from Walbridge & Bellg, where he was hired in 1953, two years after Tony Walbridge and Mike Bellg founded the business.

Mr. Wehmeyer and the late El Myers — who mainly managed the firm’s business affairs — bought partnership interests in 1956. Mr. Wehmeyer was elected a vice president in 1961. At its peak in the 1980s, W&B had more than 20 staff photographers and also produced videos, films, and multimedia packages for clients around the country.

The firm’s clients ranged from a local supermarket chain to nationally known food producers to kitchen cabinet makers, Mr. Bellg said.

“He was good at everything,” Mr. Bellg said. “He had a good eye, and he knew what he wanted to accomplish, and he kept doing it until he got it. It was never a case of ‘that’s good enough.’

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, he was outstanding. He’d knock himself out to please you and the customers,” Mr. Bellg said. “He was an outgoing person, outgoing to the point where his desire was to make the people around him and the client happy. He didn’t want to do anything to irritate people. He felt there was no point to that.”

Mr. Wehmeyer was best known as principal photographer of the semiannual Libbey Glass wholesale catalog. He made sure everything was just-so and that the glassware’s attributes shone.

“He would handle all the lighting as well as the photography. He wasn’t just snapping pictures,” said Alice Rucker, who was designer and stylist for the Libbey Glass sessions. “I would get the props for the background. We worked closely together” — even arranging fruit and mixing drinks if that fit the concept.

“He was an easy guy to work with, and he liked his work,” Mrs. Rucker said.

He had little interest in taking pictures of weddings or babies or sunsets, Mr. Bolen said, although Mr. Wehmeyer occasionally took photos for friends’ family events.

In 1974, he was photographer for the coffee table book Splendor of Jade, which showed off the extensive jade collection of Joseph Schedel, best known for his garden near Elmore.

He took the cover photograph for the programs of the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show, held annually in Oklahoma City.

In the late 1970s, he developed an interest in Morgan horses. He showed several through the years, and they were kept at Mr. Bohlen’s Cedar Creek Farms.

“He never really rode, but he did like to drive [and] was pretty good at it,” Mr. Bolen said. A horse Mr. Wehmeyer co-owned won a national championship with the Morgan group in the gentlemen’s pleasure driving category.

“He did this as a sport, to have fun,” Mr. Bolen said. “The horse world is full of people who are interested in the same things. He liked the people. He liked the socializing. He liked the parties and just being part of the events.”

Formerly of Eagle Point Colony in Rossford, Mr. Wehmeyer lived in Sarasota, Fla., for about 15 years in retirement.

He was born April 28, 1928, to Esther and Richard Wehmeyer and was a 1947 graduate of Whitmer High School. He was an Army veteran and served in Europe. At Ohio University, he was drum major for the marching band and a photography major.

There are no immediate survivors.

Private services were held Friday. Arrangements were by the Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, Perrysburg.

Tributes are suggested to Planned Pethood in Toledo.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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