Erwin John Wunderlich, age 70, of Longwood, Florida, passed away on September 20, 2023. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 21, 1953 to parents Dr. Erwin F. and Lulu (Nichols) Wunderlich.
He is survived by his wife Susan; his brother Jeff; his four children EJ, Katie, Ben and Matt; and his ten grandchildren. Erwin’s oldest son, EJ, is married to Kim (Nguyen) with children Ellie and Jake in Alexandria, Virginia. Erwin’s daughter, Katie, is married to John Egan with children Cole, Caitlin, and Elizabeth in Ottawa, Canada. Erwin’s second-oldest son, Ben, is married to Jennie (Balmer) with children Samantha, Gwen, and Cal in Kalona, Iowa. Erwin’s youngest son, Matt, is married to Amy (Kemp) with children Caleb and Wyatt in O’Fallon, Illinois.
Erwin was a veteran, engineer, educator, author, illustrator, and beekeeper. Growing up in Florida, Erwin enjoyed the state’s springs, rivers, lakes, swamps, and beaches – experiences which would later influence his writings and novels centered in Florida. Following in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Erwin became an avid hunter and outdoorsman ranging from the Florida’s Everglades to across Central and Northern Florida. At fifteen years of age, Erwin set a Florida bowhunting record and met with the Florida Governor where he was rewarded and recognized for his skills. He would continue to gain recognition for his leadership and selfless service, obtaining a nomination and appointment to the United States Naval Academy through Florida Senator Spessard Holland.
At the Naval Academy, Erwin majored in Mathematics, played rugby and sang in the Chapel Choir. He was personally selected by Admiral Hiram Rickover to join the United States Navy’s nuclear submarine service. During a summer break, Erwin visited the mountains of North Georgia where he met and began courting his future wife, Susan Gail Coldren of Dillard, Georgia. Graduating from the Academy in 1975, Erwin became a nuclear submarine officer and served on the USS HAWKBILL.
On his graduation day, Erwin married Susan and the Navy sent the newlyweds around the world with postings ranging from Athens, Georgia, to Honolulu, Hawaii. Following his time in the Navy’s active component, Erwin joined the Navy Reserve and settled in Palm City, Florida, where he worked for Florida Power and Light and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. During this time, Erwin earned advanced degrees in business and environmental engineering as well as a Doctorate in education. Erwin’s work involved him being a State of Florida environmental inspector, a Federal planning lead for Florida’s environmental restorations in the Kissimmee River and Everglades, a former civilian Director of Education at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a government service leader in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Erwin wrote numerous novels, children’s books, and educational materials sharing his love of Florida with audiences of all ages. His hobbies included spending time with his grandchildren, softball, scrimshaw carvings, metalworking, beekeeping, and visiting festivals and parks across Florida and Georgia. He was a skilled archer, arborist, and softball player – always enjoying the outdoors and making the world a better place.
Erwin was dedicated to his children – coaching baseball and softball teams, mentoring through science fair projects, encouraging athletics and arts, and editing papers for his children and grandchildren alike. All four of Erwin’s children followed in his footsteps into military service through four different military academies. Erwin loved his children and his grandchildren – encouraging and inspiring them to greatness. He will be greatly missed.
A memorial service will take place at 1030 am, Thursday, September 28, 2023, at Sanlando United Methodist Church, 1890 W State Road 434, Longwood, Florida, 32750, where Erwin was a member.
A reception will take place immediately following the service on the campus of Sanlando UMC. Internment will follow at 2:30 p.m. at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery at 5525 US-1, Mims, Florida, 32754.