Josefa Untalan Funes was 12 years oldwhen she became a prisoner of war during the Japanese occupation of Guam. Her early experience fueled her desire to stand up for what is right – a spirit she instilled in her 15 children.
Four of Funes’ sons served in the Army in Vietnam. One of her daughters, Josephine Wentzel, served as a police detective on Guam, and later became an activist in Los Angeles. Today, as a resident of Clark County, Wentzel is running for Vancouver City Council.
Josephine Wentzel doesn’t have all the details of her mother’s early, devastating experience, but it was so traumatizing that Wentzel always felt the pulse of it. It intensified when one of her brothers took a second tour in Vietnam to help his friends. He told his mother he didn’t think he was coming back. He didn’t.
“These guys went in with full intention of defending this country, and the treatment they got afterwards, the bad politics involved in it…” Wentzel sighs and pauses.
After an in-person interview, the local paper wrote disparaging commentary on Wentzel’s “frequent trips to the podium” at City Council meetings.
“What concerned me about the city,” Josephine Wentzel says, “Is the fact that they did not want citizen input. These guys had it all set up to where it’s going to be done their way or the highway. And there was no way that they were going to allow citizens to even give an input. And what was more of an insult, was when they screamed at us, mocked us.”
That passion to not be deterred and speak up – as her mother taught – seems to have led to the newspaper’s label of “chronic complainer” and a further insult, “toxic.”
“What are the rules? What are the laws? Where are you taking this city?” asks Wentzel. “Somebody ought to be interrupting and holding government accountable.”
While the aftermath of the name calling brought out sympathetic supporters, it wasn’t enough to encourage Wentzel to return to the paper when invited to participate in one of their online candidate chats.
“Why would I go to a live chat that’s being controlled by the same people who called me names?”
The campaign trail has had a few bumps and Wentzel has bounced back and brushed off the dust. Her advice is “don’t judge a book by its cover” and “listen to everybody who decides to run.” She believes candidates deserve full credit because “it’s not that easy putting your name out there.”
Wentzel is quick to note that she is not running because she wants a job and it’s not about being elected. She’s running because many people have come forward and asked her to represent them. “Win or lose, I’m doing this because I believe people need choices.”
Video shot and edited by Ed Stortro and Scott Thompson
Josephine Wentzel presents proof of CASA volunteer service:
Editor's note: Wentzel is employed by US Digital. US Digital and COUV.COM are sister companies.