Richard's Story

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SALLISAW – Richard Perry Wheeler cast his final line on July 12, 2015, in Fort Smith, Ark. He was born Oct. 15, 1930, to William Richard “Buck” and Alma Moore Wheeler. He was the husband of 49 years to Lenna Maye Childers Wheeler who predeceased him. He was a native of Sallisaw, graduated from Sallisaw High School in 1948, and was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church in Sallisaw. He attended Oklahoma A&M College in Stillwater from 1948-1951 but left college to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. After completing his tour with the Marines, Perry entered Northeastern State University where he graduated with a double major in chemistry and biology. Upon graduation in 1955, Skelly Oil Co. employed him as a research chemist in Pawhuska. In 1962, Perry returned to Sallisaw to assume ownership of Wheeler Funeral Home, which he owned and operated along with Buck’s Flower Shop until he retired in 1998. Perry entered public service when he was elected mayor of Sallisaw and he held the office from 1963-1977. During his tenure, he was instrumental in developing many projects including the development of the Sallisaw Industrial Park, the location of Colt Industries (now SLW Automotive), and the development of the water system throughout Sequoyah County. In 1967, he became an original member of the Eastern Oklahoma Development District, where he extended his efforts to develop northeast Oklahoma by assisting in securing financing for Tsa La Gi Cultural Center and Village, the Muskogee Port, and other projects in the EODD Service Area. In 1970, Perry became chairman of EODD and served in that position for 14 years. During this period, Perry also served on the advisory committee to the Oklahoma Office of Planning and Development, the Board of Directors of Oklahoma Center for Local Government, the Cherokee Historical Society, and the Oklahoma Municipal League. In 1976, Perry was elected deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation. During the eight years he served as deputy chief he was instrumental in the resurrection of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Government and the development of projects including the Cherokee Nation Industrial Park in Stilwell and the Cherokee Complex in Tahlequah. In 1982, Perry was elected president of Verd-Ark-Ca Development Corp. and served in this capacity for 27 years. He was honored with a Lifetime Service Award at the annual meeting of the Verd-Ark-Ca Development Corp. in 2000. Perry did not enjoy retirement so he became an educator at the age of 68 in the subjects of math and chemistry and taught at Sallisaw High School from 1998-2015. During his lifetime, Perry enjoyed everything about fishing from tying his own flies, making his own fly rod poles, and teaching those he loved that no matter how bad the fishing was to always keep casting. He was an avid bird hunter, trainer of his black Labradors, and gun collector. As a former Black Diamond half back, he loved watching Black Diamond sports, especially his son Rick playing football and Lynelle and Jo cheering from the sidelines. His grandchildren, Zac, Hayden, and Jordan Spencer, all Sallisaw High School graduates, delighted him with their performances on the football field and basketball court. He was the ultimate family man who loved spending time telling stories as he was the official Wheeler family historian. He cherished the times when all of his sisters and brother gathered together charming them and many others with his sharp wit and humor. Perry was a man of humility, strength, charisma, kindness, and servitude. He always had a kind word and extended a helping hand to everyone he met. Richard Perry Wheeler was predeceased by his parents, William Richard “Buck” and Alma Moore Wheeler; and his wife, Lenna Maye Wheeler. He is survived by sisters, Nancy Wheeler, Charlotte Thomas, Janie Hensley and spouse Leroy, all of Sallisaw; and brother, Wag Wheeler and spouse Sandy of Grand Rapids, Mich.; children, Nancy Lynelle Burrows of Tulsa, Richard Wagner Wheeler and spouse Jade of Raleigh, N.C., and Jo Lynne Spencer of Sallisaw; grandchildren, Kara Burrows, Kory Coots and spouse Jerrad, Zac, Hayden and Jordan Spencer, Ashley Hickman and spouse Hank, Court Wheeler and spouse Stevie, Kelin Wheeler and their mother, Becky Wheeler; great-grandchildren, Kohen Perry and Vanna Lynelle Coots, Joseph, Joel Davis and Alison Hickman, Emmitt, Ava and Augustus Wheeler, and Dakota Zachry Spencer. A viewing will be held on Tuesday, July 14, from 2–8 p.m. and Wednesday, July 15, 8 a.m.–2 p.m. at Wheeler Funeral Home in the chapel. Family will visit with friends at the funeral home on Wednesday from 6–8 p.m. A candlelight remembrance will be held on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at the Perry F. Lattimore Stadium on the field. Family, friends, and members of the community are encouraged to join us in remembering Richard Perry Wheeler’s remarkable life and love for the Black Diamonds by wearing Black Diamond attire. A memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 16, at 10:30 a.m. at Immanuel Baptist Church on North Wheeler Avenue
Published on  July 15, 2015
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