Dec. 20, 1932 – Dec. 22, 2023
They say everything is bigger in Texas; Rev. Wayne Dee Montgomery lived his life as big as his Texan heritage. He passed Dec. 22, 2023, in Wasco.
Born Dec. 20, 1932, Wayne grew up in Lubbock, Texas. His personality loomed large at an early age. He often said he decided he was done with school in the 8th grade, and the school agreed they should part ways.
He eventually found himself in the newly formed Air Force during the height of the Korean War. Here too his personality was larger than the military. Wayne would work his way up in rank only to be busted back for any one of a number of issues he was always ready to explain. Wayne left the Air Force with an honorable discharge in March 1952 and served 10 years in the reserves.
It was during these years that Wayne found someone bigger than himself and his personality; he found the Lord. The idea of Wayne finding the Lord was unbelievable to many in Lubbock, but using his GI Bill, he enrolled at LIFE Bible College in 1951.
Good things began happening to Wayne at college, and during his senior year he had his defining moment. A first-year coed caught his eye, an Ohio native named Sally Jean Szeto. Wayne's immense personality must have shown through because after a few dates, they both just knew. After a trip to the newly opened Disneyland, they ran off and got married on Jan. 2, 1956.
Wayne's choice to marry an undergraduate did not go over well with the college, so with just months to go, he chose to ignore their reprimands and begin his ministry. Wayne had found his purpose, being Sally's husband and spreading God's word.
Wayne was doing God's work, and God was taking care of him. When things were tight, miracles happened. They traveled back and forth across the country holding revivals, and his reputation grew. Known as the Texas Tornado, he traveled with Sally and their first child, Wanda, ministering while living in a 40-foot house trailer towed behind his Mercury.
They continued to travel with their second child, Sandy, until they found themselves in a sleepy little farm town, Wasco. There, he was told it was time to settle down and buy Sally a house, so Wayne found a home and a church, Christ Community Church, where he shared God's Word until God called him home.
Settling down brought another child, Robert, and then a fourth, Karen; their family was complete but not God's work. During those years, he still did revivals, and his reputation led him to travel the world preaching. Wayne was quite proud to have visited every continent, all seven, often giving sermons - but sometimes just giving Sally the world.
Settling in Wasco was not all glory and abundance. To make ends meet, he drove a bus and worked as a student supervisor at Wasco High School. Generations of students knew him as Big Wayne. Eventually, Wayne started in insurance and opened Montgomery Insurance Agency, which he operated the rest of his life. During these busy and growing times, Wayne's big personality sparked a desire to get educated. First, he went to adult school for a high school diploma, then Cal State Bakersfield for first a bachelor's and then a master's degree. He became a marriage, family and child counselor, a fitting educational conclusion that simply supported his work for God.
Because all this was still not big enough, he then began serving the public, joining the boards of Wasco High, North Kern Regional Occupational Program, Wasco Housing Authority, Kern Civil Service Commission and others. His years of steadfast service to the community were recognized with the dedication of a science building at Wasco High in his honor, and later, induction into the CSU Bakersfield Hall of Fame.
Wayne lived a life as big as Texas. His impact on others not just in Wasco and Kern County but across the country and world will be felt for years to come.
When greeted with a "How are you?," Wayne often responded, "If I got any better, I couldn't stand it!" His last official act in God's service was to dedicate his last five great-grandchildren just before he left to be with the Lord. He passed away in the night surrounded in prayer by his loving family. "What a peaceful way to go," he told them. His final words were to his wife of 68 years, Sally. He told her, "I love you, doll. I appreciate everything you've done for me. Goodnight."
In addition to Sally Jean, he leaves behind daughter Wanda and husband Mike, daughter Sandy and husband Craig, son Robert, daughter Karen and husband Mark, 16 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Still residing in Texas: his twin-sister Wanda, brother Bobby, and their families and the families of his brother Pete, sisters Maggie, Lorene (Bert) and Ruby, who preceded him in death.
As he titled his last, unfinished, sermon, he was a blessed man.
Wayne's funeral will be held at the church he led, Christ Community Church – 1079 F St., in Wasco, beginning at noon on Saturday, Jan. 6. Interment will follow at Wasco Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the CSUB Wayne and Sally Montgomery Scholarship Fund – 661 654-3016 or visit give.csub.edu/es.shtml and list his name in the memo section.