Dear Family and Friends,
We are still in Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe where we have been getting ready to go to San Blas and Panama.
I wanted to let you know that my father passed away yesterday. It all happened very fast - he was in a car accident when he had a heart attack. Fortunately he had taken himself to the hospital so he was in the parking lot when it happened. He was not going very fast and there were no other injuries.
Dick Wheeler was an extraordinary guy, as many of you know. Always humble, he was generous, big-hearted, adventurous and inquisitive. Dad began his studies at Harvard as a French Lit major, then switched to English, and later taught school. Along the way he made the cut to serve in the Navy’s UDT, (Underwater Demolition Unit), precursor to the Navy Seals. He spent four years in the Peace Corps in Fiji helping with fisheries technology. An intensely strong man, he swam and paddled and rowed throughout his life, capped in 1991 by his single-handed kayak trip from Funk Island, Newfoundland to Cape Cod. That had been the migratory path of the Great Auk, extinct since 1844 from over harvesting, and Dad wanted to draw attention to the plight of ocean fisheries by retelling the Auk story. PBS Nova turned it into a memorable one-hour film. He had multiple interests throughout his long life. A voracious reader, he explored subjects such as Darwin, mushrooms, the natural history of Shelburne, and others, in great detail. Recently he had set himself the challenge of figuring out the Mid East. He painted beautiful watercolors, and dabbled in cartoon art, including a memorable series of chicken cartoons, reflecting his infatuation with raising poultry. He often described himself as a member of Poultryholics. “If one is good, then lots must be better!” Instead of having a small flock of chickens he had hundreds! He loved gardening and the past few years he had several plots at the local community garden and grew garlic - enough to supply all the local restaurants.
We adored him and miss him already. Ellie and Carl were very close to him too. He always supported and encouraged them and we are very glad he lived to see them grow up. Dad always said “there should be no tears at an old man’s funeral.” He lived large and lived long, and we feel grateful to have been in his orbit. But we have all cried a lot anyway.
No plans have been made yet about a memorial service.