Billy O. "Bill" Wheeler, 89, of rural Walnut, passed away at 8:39 a.m., March 13, 2023, at his home.
Bill was born on January 1, 1934, in rural Erie in his grandparent's house to Ralph and Lillie (Boaz) Wheeler. They moved to the farm outside of Walnut a few months later.
Bill attended school at Science Hill for three years until it closed. He then attended Walnut, graduating with the class of 1951. He attended Neosho County Community College for one year, then quit to farm with his father. At this time, he also was employed to put in the electric line west of his house from St. Paul to Elsmore. He still has a 12' shovel used to clean out the holes for the poles.
Bill married Vera Kennedy on February 13, 1955, at the Walnut United Methodist Church. For a while, they lived in a house ½ mile south of her parents. They moved back into the homeplace shortly afterwards. Here they raised three sons: Ken, Dick, and Don.
Bill was a 68-year member of the Vulcan Masonic Lodge. He was Master of the Lodge in 1961, 1966, and 2000. He was District Deputy Grand Master in 1963. He was awarded Outstanding Mason in the State of Kansas in 2005. When the Lodge building burnt down in 1969, he was instrumental in rebuilding it, and he finished most of the interior carpentry. He was also a 65-year member of the Walnut Eastern Star and served as Worthy Patron several times.
Bill was a founding member of the Walnut Ruritan Club and was the club's second president. He helped repair the town ball diamond, which hosted several tournaments. He served on the Walnut School Board until the consolidation with Girard. He was on the Farm Bureau Board of Directors for several years.
Bill farmed in Walnut and south of Erie. He also raised feeder pigs. He retired from farming in the 1980s and then worked for the city of Erie until retiring. After retirement, he mowed the Walnut and Glenwood cemeteries for several years.
Bill enjoyed playing cards, softball, and basketball. He played 2nd base for years on Walnut teams. He played town team basketball in the '50s and '60s. He taught his sons to play, also. Farming was always put on hold to get the boys to a game. He also enjoyed guns and hunting. He had his FFL for 35 years and traveled the State setting up at gun shows. After retirement, deer hunting was very important, and he has an antler collection in the garage that he was proud of. He shot a 14-point buck, using one arm, after his stroke. Bill and Vera also enjoyed traveling and had been to 41 states.
He is survived by his wife, Vera, of the home. Three sons: Ken (Marie) of Fort Scott; Dick (Lisa Rehm) of Weir, and Don (Sue) of Hiattville. Eight grandchildren: Ryan (McKenzie); Dustin (Meg); Ali (Chris); Melissa; Justin, Erica (Ryan); Zach (Amanda); and Jonathan (Kayley). Ten Great Grandchildren: Jaxson, Damon; Caleb; Corbin; Lincoln; Gabe, Adriana; Addison, Collins, Triston, and another on the way. He is also survived by his sister, Mary Ann Buscher (Erie), and brothers-in-law: Marvin, Wilbur (Janie), Joe (Esther), and Dean (Cheryl) Kennedy.
There will be a celebration of life on Saturday, March 18, at the Vulcan Masonic Lodge in Walnut for family and friends to call from 1 to 3 p.m. Memorials are suggested to the Vulcan Masonic Lodge. Online condolences may be left at www.wallfuneralservices.com.