The spirit of George Albert Wheeler Jr. transitioned to the stars hours before dawn on February 5, 2020. The family is certain that he is having a marvelous adventure on the other side, and we take comfort in knowing he will be there to welcome us when it is our time.
We already dearly miss George’s big smile, hearty laugh, ceaseless guidance on all things, slap-stick and witty sense of humor, and above all his big, soft, warm, and reassuring hugs. Miss Violet, our pup, misses her morning pet at the sunny kitchen table. We miss his excellent use of metaphor and colloquialisms when sharing his thoughts, stories or advice. George was well read, intelligent, humble, and always open to learning. He was a romantic idealist but always prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.
George was born in La Jolla, CA on July 17, 1949 to the sounds of ocean waves crashing on the beach. He grew up in San Diego and spent a year at age 10 living in Oahu, Hawaii with his mother, Barbara, step-father, Captain Ray Allen, USMC, and six half-siblings. George returned to San Diego and graduated from Mount Miguel High School in Spring Valley, CA in 1967. Immediately following high school, George joined the US Marine Corps, volunteered for “West Pac,” and arrived at Danang Air Base, Viet Nam on September 13, 1968. From Da Nang, George flew up to Phu Bai where he served the remainder of his tour. It is here that George was exposed to an herbicide defoliant called Agent Orange that American forces used to clear Vietnamese forests. This exposure led to his decades-long battle with cancer that ultimately claimed his life. Honorably discharged on August 4, 1969, George walked out of his last duty station with a driver’s license and two dollars in his wallet.
Back in the states, George was briefly married in 1971 to Kifi Wiggins and worked as a diesel mechanic in Wilmington, Delaware. Returning to California, George got a job with the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier in coastal Del Mar, which he held for 16 years. This was a perfect job for surfing on lunch breaks and after work. George was an avid surfer. His home surf breaks were Seaside and Cardiff Reefs but he’d surf anywhere he could find a wave. George spent thousands of sunsets on the water watching the stars come out and enjoyed occasional sunrise sessions too. George also loved water skiing on Lake Powell and skiing anywhere there was snow. He was a “B” level racquetball player with occasional glorious competitions at “A” level.
George married Robin Kinze in 1980 and they had two children, Jessica and Garret. George always followed world affairs and politics and was a survivalist. He left increasingly crowded San Diego and moved his family to Humboldt County in 1985 to a land of good soil and clean water. His plan was to go to Humboldt State University (HSU) and obtain the desired professional skill-set necessary to emigrate with his family to Australia in the southern hemisphere, a key survival strategy to avoid the worst of any nuclear catastrophe in the northern hemisphere.
Fate intervened and George never made it to Australia. George and Robin split amicably in 1991. While he was still a student at HSU and a homeowner in Sunny Brae, George was “lightning struck” when he met a prospective renter at his front door who would become the love of his life. George and Jennifer were married two years later. George graduated from HSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Science and later with a Master’s in Business Administration.
He taught at HSU for many years. He also served as the go-to handy man for many in the community. George served on the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors from 2014-2019. He felt strongly about encouraging public conversation, creating a safer environment through the elimination of pesticides in public parks, and increasing MCSD’s energy independence through decentralized solar power. He loved public service and wished that he had discovered it decades earlier. George was a jack-of-all-trades, and lover of people, parties, physics, history, politics, the ocean, and his wife Jennifer.
George was fiercely loyal and devoted to his children. Of all his life’s work, his children were what he was most proud of. He was impressed by their unique talents and thoroughly believed that they could realize their dreams and highest potential. George admired their courage and resilience as they persevered through many extraordinary challenges. Being home with his kids was his greatest joy.
George is survived by his wife of 27 years, Jennifer (Anthony) Wheeler, and their adult children daughter Samantha (Wheeler) Miles, son Dalton Wheeler, and daughter Natalie Wheeler; daughter Jessica Wheeler and son Garret Wheeler by Robin Stockwell; grand-daughters Jayda and Marena Calderon, and grand-son Isaiah Rivera; half-sister Christina Wheeler, and half-brother Howard Wheeler. George is preceded in death by his father George Albert Wheeler Sr., step-mother Jerry Wheeler, mother Barbara Agnes (Wheeler) Allen, step-father Ray Allen, and half-brother Dale Wheeler.
Special thanks and much love to George’s dearest and life-long friends Craig Stacy, Susan Smith, and Scott Young. Many thanks to our neighbor Ted Smith who helped George and Jennifer so much over the past few years. We cannot thank enough the friends, family, and community that helped George and our family so selflessly following Garret’s surfing accident and long road back to Garret’s highest level of recovery. Thanks to Ken Miller, Meighan O’Brien, Joyce King, Pat Higgins, and Johnny Calkins who supported George on his rise to community service. Thanks to Ellen Searle-LeBel for her wisdom and support for our family over the years. High praise and awe to the doctors and nursing staff at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, Stacy at the Eureka VA Clinic (Go PAC Team C!), St. Joseph Radiation Oncology, Hematology/Oncology, and ER departments, and the wonderful staff and volunteers at Hospice of Humboldt.
One of George’s most recent phrases that he favored as his life came to a close: “Remember, you don’t have to, you get to.”
A memorial birthday party will be held at his beach-side home in July. Invitations will be sent out via text/e-mail in the coming months. Ain’t life grand!
The obituary above was submitted on behalf of George Wheeler’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.