J. Walter “Buddy” Wheeler was born Nov. 17, 1935 in Spencer and died Aug. 19 in Fackler, Alabama at his son’s home under hospice care
He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Barbara Ann Wheeler, parents Victor and Bertha Wheeler, and sisters Thelma Shockley Lee, Juanita Romine Detrick and Dorothy Green.
He is survived by his sisters, Jean Argo, Ora Lee Skinner, Wanda (John) Greene, children Paul (Maia) Wheeler, Suzanne (Richard) Branson, Marcella (Daniel) Tatro, grandchildren Jose (Carrie) Gomez, Trevor (Melissa) Wheeler, Brittany (Corey) Brown, Danielle (Cody) Dowling, Gabrielle Tatro, Laura Branson, Doug (Caitie) Branson, Nick Branson, great-grandchildren Annabelle, Lily, Selah, Royce, Emery, Aria, Adeline and Damian, numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Special friends, Rolando and Christine Gomez and caregiver for his wife, Lauri.
Walter graduated from the Tennessee School for the Deaf where he was Class President in 1957. He was honored with the Ethel Poore Award which represents “Whose influence most promoted the welfare of the school.” His wife, Barbara, also won the same award for the class of 1958.
Walter was a superior athlete competing as a guard in basketball. He also was honored in the TSD Hall of Fame as a fullback in football. TSD defeated several of the top public schools in the Knoxville area during the years Walter played.
Walter was ordained a deacon in 1960 by a pioneering evangelist for the Deaf, Rev. Clifford J. Bruffey at Inwood Baptist Church/Edwards Deaf Chapel in Winter Haven, FL. He was a Lead Catalyst of the Florida Baptist Conference of the Deaf. He attended many Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf events for decades. He is a member of Grace Bible Deaf Church in Tampa, FL.
Walter retired from the Tampa Tribune where he worked in the Composing Department as a printer. He was a hard driven worker who was dedicated to his career. He used his stringent work ethic to teach his children the same values. Walter expected excellence academically from his children by instilling a “no excuses” mentality. Both Walter and Barbara taught their children to be independent and driven.
He and Barbara were avid travelers until his wife became homebound due to dementia. They enjoyed taking road trips across America’s backroads visiting 44 states. Their 40th wedding anniversary gift by their children was a Deaf Caribbean cruise. After a huge dinner reception of over two hundred family and friends, they celebrated their 50th anniversary by traveling the northeast residing for a month in Vermont enjoying the fall colors. For their 60th anniversary, they celebrated with family and friends at the beach.
Walter was a man who enjoyed and loved his extended family and the Deaf community. Both his 70th and 80th birthday parties were large events with many in attendance. He reveled the clean cut celebrations with great enthusiasm. Being with his loved ones was something he treasured.
Walter will be buried at Walling Cemetery in Pikeville/Spencer, TN. This is where he has generations of ancestors laid to rest from both of his parents. A rich heritage of Wheeler, Walling, Myers and Roberts ancestries with familial ties to Fall Creek Falls State Park. His family was recognized in the May 1939 edition of The National Geographic magazine where his family has multiple photographs. Also of note, Walter has many Deaf cousins including Johnny Maynard, Martha Myers, Darrin Myers and recently deceased Mike Wells and Dillard Myers.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to: Grace Bible Deaf Church or Encompass Hospice, 23820 John T Reid Parkway, Scottsboro AL, 35768.
Funeral arrangements by Valhalla Funeral Home in Huntsville, Ala. Pastor Ronaldo Feliciano officiating the Celebration of Life service at 5:30 p.m. CST/6:30 p.m. EST on Monday, Aug. 24, via Facebook Live https://www.facebook.com/groups/640192843580221/?ref=share. Interpreter Sonya Perez. Graveside services will be arranged by Spencer Funeral Home.
Pastor Arthur Clayton officiating at 10 a.m. CST/11 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Aug. 25.
(McMinnville, Tenn.) Aug. 23, 2020