William Jesse Wheeler, Age :84
Dec 17,1935---Jun 28,2020

William Jesse Wheeler, 84, passed away on Sunday June 28, 2020 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.  Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:00 a.m. Thursday, July 2, 2020 at Church of the Ascension, 9510 W. 127th Street, Overland Park, Kansas 66213.  Burial to follow at Resurrection Cemetery, Lenexa, Kansas.

Bill Wheeler was born William Jesse Wheeler in 1935 in Los Angeles, Calif. By Marie Murphy and Leonard Amos Wheeler. He grew up in Indianapolis, Ind., the only child of a single mother. He joined the seminary as a high schooler, as was done in those days, and would have been Catholic priest, but the decision to take Latin and Greek in the same semester proved too hard and there were no second chances for the children of broken homes. (He promised himself that no child of his would be from a broken home.) At Cathedral H.S. he was a football star and was offered a scholarship to Notre Dame, but he had joined the reserves and in his senior year the Korean war broke out so he went into the Marines. He used to never talk about this time in his life, but as the grandchildren began to hang around, he would tell them stories of his battalion getting overrun by the Chinese and how everyone was getting killed so, he and 2 other guys found a shack with a basement. The building was taken over as a Chinese command center with them hiding in the basement. They had to be very quiet, and still. One of the guys kept snoring and they had to hold his nose to keep from getting captured. This went on for 2 days before the Chinese moved on and they escaped. (He had been claustrophobic ever since.) These same 2 guys were with him when a helicopter crashed nearby and they pulled the pilot to safety. All three were awarded a Bronze Star for their heroism. When he got home from the war he joined the Butler University football team and played both running back and linebacker. He then played in the Blue/Gray all-star game which he told us was the only football game his mother ever attended. He scored a touchdown while she was in the bathroom. (There was always someone to watch each of his kids games as he felt this was important) He was noticed by the Chicago Bears and made the team as a linebacker but his career was cut short by an achilles injury. After leaving the Bears he went back into the armed forces when he joined the Army to become an air traffic controller. Stationed in Fort Riley, KS they quickly made him the head football coach for the base and he won numerous awards as a sharpshooter. He met my mother as she was from nearby Abilene, Ks. When he was stationed in Japan he was the lead in a production of Picnic and had a major role in Harvey, sang in the choir with a good baritone voice and even knew Japanese well enough to dub American films into Japanese when he was stationed there after his time in Kansas. This was all in the 50’s when being cool was wayfarers and convertibles and judging by pictures from that time he was cool. When he got home from his tour, my parents got married they moved to Indianapolis, Ind. for a year or two and then on to Washington, D.C. where a good friend of his got him a job working for the federal government as a contracting officer with Dept. of Commerce. During a government freeze, he got a job as a D.C. cabbie at the airport and told the story of picking up Ethel Kennedy as a passenger and then being told to ‘go faster’ as she was convinced they were being followed. When the car that was following them finally caught up, Robert Kennedy got out and gave him a big tip for taking care of his wife. Now just having their 4th child and realizing that they needed a better job, they joined the Peace Corps and were stationed in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands where he was the camp manager for two years training volunteers for French-speaking Africa. A fifth child was born in the islands and when returning from the islands in 1972, he was hired back into the government and began a slow rise that is seen in people who are able to think outside the box. My father was tough on us kids. He expected a lot out of us. He taught us how to compete by how he lived his life. I like to say that he prepared us for the path of life rather than preparing the path for us. He taught us about marriage by how he loved, argued with and cared for my mother. He taught what being a man meant. We had a family newspaper route when we lived in Washington, D.C. so my parents could send us to Catholic schools. There was a time when we thought that he was working at McDonalds to make ends meet. If he did, he wouldn’t tell us, but an ego was not an issue when a man had to care for his family. Like many in his generation, telling your kids how you felt about them was difficult. This created a need to seek his approval that drove me and my siblings. In 1983 he moved my mother (and us now 7 children) back to Kansas as he accepted a government position in Kansas City. He also continued to work on a project where he was trying to make purchasing in the government easier. He had noticed that when people went on business trips they would have to spend their own money and when they returned they would have to fill out forms in triplicate then wait on government processing to finally getting their money back. It was tedious and cumbersome. He introduced a government travel card that could be only used for certain purchases that debuted in 1986 for use in the Commerce department. It saved the government so much money that my parents had dinner and received an award at the Reagan White House. The card was then tried with a few more government agencies and was wildly successful. It became the only profitable program in the federal government as credit card companies would charge a small percentage for processing and part of that percentage would go back to the government. When GSA took over the card in 1989 my father decided to retire as the highest non-elected, non-appointed government employee. He became a consultant for new programs at American Express and MasterCard until he finally retired. The ‘Government Travel Card’ as it became known, was expanded further and further and in 2016 it was estimated that 100 million transactions were performed per year in the GSA program at a savings of $25 to $65 per transaction.This was just in the GSA, as the program had expanded to over 350 government agencies including the Department of Defense, which includes all the military and VA systems. The purchasing card idea has also expanded to public companies and in 2005 alone there were over $110 billion in purchasing completed. He never received any monetary gain or notoriety for this program. None of this defines Bill Wheeler, he was some much more than his accomplishments. He was a daily church goer, he is resilient, determined, humble. When old friends get together, everyone has a Bill Wheeler story. We sat around a bar several years ago with a gaggle of his kid’s high school and college friends and each had a different entertaining story.18 years ago he sent out a letter to us kids explaining how important his faith was to us kids, just so we would know. It is a letter we all treasure. In his retirement he pheasant hunted more, took up golfing, became a grand knight in the Knights of Columbus, was a regular at grandchildren events, was an active participant in the yearly “NaNa camp” for the grandkids and did much of the traveling him and Marilyn had always planned. He leaves a lasting imprint on all of our hearts as a devoted husband, involved father and lovable Papa. He died at Brookdale memory care after a daylong celebration of his life by his family. He is preceded in death by his parents and daughter-in-law Ashlei Wheeler. Bill is survived by his loving wife Marilyn and children Mark, Kelli (Jeff), Michael (Paula), Sean (Susie), Katie (Shannon), Jason and Kristi (Neil) along with 26 grandchildren and other beloved relatives.



Condolences

Denise Bradley Jun 29 ,2020

Friend ,Osawatomie

Kelli and entire Wheeler family Keeping you all in my prayers. I was fortunate enough to have met your Dad a couple of times He was a warm and funny guy. Losing a Dad is a tough loss You all will keep him alive with all the great memories. God Bless you all.

Greg and Debbie (Lady) Davis Jun 30 ,2020

Friend ,Abilene ,Kansas

Marilyn and Family: You all are in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. May you find peace and comfort in all of your wonderful memories. Greg and Debbie (Lady) Davis

Mary Rellihan Shaw Jul 01 ,2020

Friend ,Topeka ,Kansas

Kelli and Wheeler family, I am thinking you during this difficult time. The obituary was beautifully written and your father was a blessed and gracious man. It is hard to say goodbye to a father as I know my father and mother have passed. They will welcome your him up to heaven. Love and prayers to you all.

Marge Tansley Jul 01 ,2020

Friend ,Bonner Springs ,Kansas

My thoughts and prayers to you Marilyn and to your family. Bill was a very special man....loving husband and father. I rejoice with you as you celebrate his life with your remembrances of him. Marge Tansley

Jean Striegl Jul 01 ,2020

Friend ,Tampa ,Florida

So sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you

Randy Cauthen Jul 02 ,2020

What a wonderful tribute/obituary. We are all saddened by your loss. We hope the celebration of Mr. Wheeler’s life continues and his family find peace in all he accomplished while he was here on this earth. God Bless you all. Rest In Peace, Mr. Wheeler.

Event:
Funeral Mass
Location:
Church of the Ascension
Address:
9510 West 127th Street
City:
Overland Park
State:
Kansas
Zip Code:
66213
Date:
Jul 02 ,2020
Time:
10:00 AM
Google Map:
Event:
Interment
Location:
Resurrection Cemetery
Address:
8300 Quivira
City:
Lenexa
State:
Kansas
Zip Code:
66215
Date:
Jul 02 ,2020
Time:
Google Map: