Community leader Wengert celebrated as wife and mother


She was described as a mother, sister, person of faith, a true Perry Countian and the ultimate Elvis Presley fan. For many, she was someone who left this world much too soon.
Jackie Wengert, touted as a lover of all people and most of all her community, died suddenly March 2 at the age of 63.
Wengert served as the Perryville Area Chamber of Commerce’s executive director from 1999-2005. When the position became available again in 2018, and she jumped at the chance to lead the Chamber for a second time.
“I loved working for the Chamber,” Wengert said before she eventually retired in June 2022. “To be honest, I was working out of town back then and the work was in a cubicle in an office and I just missed the people. I missed communicating with the businesses and I was at one of those times in my life when I felt like I would love to get back with the Chamber again.
“In some ways, it was like I had never left. “Most of the business owners were the same, so that made me feel more comfortable with stepping right back in and picking up where I left off.”
Wengert implemented several new events such as Power Hour — a spin-off of another event —and kept building on the existing infrastructure that was already in place.
“One of the best things about chambers is that when you get something that works, don’t try to fix it,” Wengert said. “Things like Mayfest, as long as you have everything in order, not even rain can mess it up.”
Wengert, who also served as the president of the Perry County Extension Council, was born Oct. 5, 1959 in Perryville to Walter Sr. and Francis (Unterreiner) Kutz. She married Steve Wengert on Sept. 7, 1991, at Christ the Savior Catholic Church in Brewer, where she was a member of the Blessed Sacrament Ladies Sodality, a parish council member, and served on the cemetery board.
Survivors include her husband; a son, Curt (Rebecca) Pecaut of Perryville; two daughters, Dawn (Chad) Ozark of Perryville and Lisa Marie (Daniel) Joyce of San Diego, Calif.; two brothers, Walter (Linda) Kutz Jr. of Perryville and Joe (Kim Schulte) Kutz of Perryville; two sisters, Joan (Harry) McKinney of Springfield, Ill., and Jean (Larry) Smith of Bonne Terre; six grandchildren — McKayla Pecaut, Grace Ozark, Jack Ozark, McKenzie Pecaut, Lily Ozark, Isabella Pecaut — granddogs Tina & Stella, and numerous nephews, nieces, godchildren and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents and two sisters, Joyce Hotop and Kathy Wilkerson.
According to those who knew her best, Wengert always enjoyed her time giving back to the community and the many lives she touched.
“Jackie spent her time at the Chamber always giving back, working hard, and doing whatever it took to make the community shine,” reads a post on the official Chamber of Commerce Facebook page. “Jackie believed in giving back to her community and encouraged others to do the same. She enjoyed telling visitors of the office just how amazing our small community was and how Perryville had the best stores, churches, restaurants, historic places, etc. Jackie was a fountain of knowledge when it came to the history of Perry County and had immense pride for our community. She enjoyed working with others to plan events, such as the Mayfest. It brought her joy to bring others joy. There was a lot to be learned from her and she has forever left a stamp on this community as a great servant.”

Wengert was also a key component at Christ the Savior Church.
“Jackie was just one of those people who took charge because she knew what needed to be done,” Father Joe Geders said during funeral services Tuesday at Christ the Savior. “I just made sure I got out of the way.”
Wengert’s daughter, Dawn Ozark, echoed those sentiments about her mother’s faith.
“I know without a doubt, you heard God’s voice on Thursday and left it all behind to follow Him. Your faith was strong and I knew you had a peace about the future” Ozark said. “I am finding out now just how faithful you were. The Bible opened on the kitchen table has provided solace as I read what you highlighted. You were in fact preparing all of us for these days. You, being the wonderful mother you were, prepared each of us.”
Her daughter, Lisa Marie Joyce, also spoke about her mother’s faith.
“I didn’t fully understand until I found her many diaries, that she was also preparing herself,” Joyce said. “She wrote so much about her faith and her family. She searched the Bible and prayer books endlessly for answers on how to better herself for God.”
“She prayed for so many people over and over. If you had troubles, you can guarantee my mom prayed for you. She constantly told me whenever I was in despair to give it to God. She would say, ‘You don’t have to carry this, let him carry it for you.’ Well, just look at this room, God, you’ve got a heavy load.”
Joyce described Wengert as a wonderful mother and person.
“If my mom had a part in raising you then you sang Christmas songs all year round instead of lullabies,” Joyce said. “You danced to Elton John playing off the record player. You made greeting cards on a random afternoon. You felt larger than life when you could make her laugh until she almost peed her pants. You collected money at Christmas time to buy presents for a less fortunate family. You knew if you were five minutes late for curfew, your things would be in the front yard and on fire.
“You knew she was married to her soulmate because she kissed and hugged him often and didn’t care who watched. You knew you would see mom on the sideline of your sports game wearing a custom shirt with your number on it. You walked with her through every antique mall looking for another piece of Fenton glass. You knew how to go into the flower shop with your own vase and ask for the cheap flowers with carnations. You knew she could whip you up a flower arrangement anytime for anything. You woke up on St. Nick’s day knowing Mom has something in your stocking.
“You went to church on Sunday no matter what happened on Saturday night, you definitely ate dessert first, you prayed and you loved.”
Geders ended the service inside the Brewer church with a simple message to the standing-room-only crowd, a reflection of the hundreds of people who attended the visitation at Ford & Young Funeral Home on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, and the people who lined the downtown square as her funeral procession made one final trip through the city she loved.
“Jackie would also say that she didn’t know if she had many friends,” Geders said. “By the number of people in this room, I’d say she was wrong.”