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Wheeler III, William Louis

Obituary

William Louis Wheeler, III, died at age 91 on June 30, 2021, in Dallas, Texas, his city of residence for over 50 years.

Originally from New York City, Bill, as he was known to his friends, was born to William L. Wheeler, Jr., MD and Catherine (Kate) Jones Wheeler on April 21, 1930.

He loved all forms of transportation, but the buses of NYC were his favorite and a major influence on his later career choice. He attended Friends Seminary in Manhattan, a private K-12 school, and pursued undergraduate studies in agricultural engineering at State University of New York (SUNY) in Morrisville, NY.

When the Korean War intervened, he enlisted in the United States Navy, subsequently joining the ranks of the Seabees to continue with his interests in transportation and machinery. Serving from 1951 to 1957, Bill often remarked that his years in the Navy were some of the best of his life. While stationed at Headquarters Allied Forces Southern Europe (HAFSE) in Naples, Italy, he learned Italian, “dialetto Napolitan”, and was always seeking opportunities to practice his Italian with friends and acquaintances of Italian extraction. His USN service also including a stint operating heavy construction equipment at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba naval base.

Upon his return stateside from Gitmo in October 1954, he was posted to Brooklyn Navy Yard, and was permitted to live at home in NYC.  At the Navy Yard, he was in charge of a small motor pool providing transportation for the US Navy Motion Picture Service. Another assignment was as rig operator and maintenance technician for a USN mobile dental clinic. This traveling treatment unit toured the 3rd Naval District to serve personnel at Naval Reserve training centers.

 

Although buses and transportation were his passion, roller skating was also high on his list. Bill skated from childhood, starting ca.1934 with strap-on skates, and continuing through adulthood after transitioning to figure skating footwear. He even built skates, crafting the mounting plates for wheel assemblies to be affixed to high quality boots for himself and other skaters.  He skated competitively for the Riverside Figure & Dance Club at Riverside Arena in Livonia, Michigan, where he met a talented figure skater.  As skating partners, they won the Michigan State Senior Dance championship in May 1961 in Grand Rapids, MI.

Bill’s career at General Motors in the Truck & Coach Division began December 15, 1958. He remained with the company for 29 years, until GM closed its bus division in 1987, selling the manufacturing rights to the Rapid Transit Series (RTS) bus.  Bill then joined Transportation Manufacturing Corporation (TMC) in Field Sales and Service representing the RTS buses. He later branched out as an independent Bus Technical Consultant.  All told, he spent roughly 50 years in the bus business.

Although he retired from paid employment, Bill never really left the bus industry and was frequently sought after for his knowledge of bus history, construction and insider information by fellow bus enthusiasts and historians; his knowledge was legendary and his written accounts were in demand for bus publications.

Bill Wheeler was preceded in death by his father in 1969 and his mother in 2005. He is survived by his sister, Joanie Morgan, his two daughters Beverly Autrey and Margo Rye and their spouses, his adopted daughter Elaine Painter and son Michael Wheeler and their spouses, multiple grandchildren and one great-grandchild, as well as friends too numerous to count. He never met a stranger.

Although his loss is felt deeply by family and friends, if Bill had it his way, he is now in that “Big Bus Garage in the Sky”, likely on roller skates.

Funeral will be held at 11am on July 30, 2021 at the DFW National Cemetery (www.cem.va.gov).

11 Thoughts on Wheeler III, William Louis
    A. Wheeler
    13 Oct 2022
    10:40am

    Bill served his country from 1951 to 1957, 6 years, in the US Navy.

    Tim Logan
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    The first time I spoke with Bill Wheeler 21 years ago he hollered at me because I didn’t call him back fast enough from the message he left for me. He then proceeded to tell me everything wrong with the 1958 GM bus I had purchased which coincidentally was the same years he started working for GM Coach. And then we proceeded to become best buddies.
    A legend develops when someone is known so well that stories are told and retold over the course of time, and that legend develops. Billy was a legend. Known all across the country for his bus wisdom and also his snarky and sassy personality.
    Bill Wheeler became a legend in his own time. And his legend will live forever. In our hearts, in our minds, in our lives, and in our memories. Forever.
    We will be going about our daily affairs, not particularly thinking about Billy, when suddenly, out of no where he will appear. I believe that especially will be true for his family but for the rest of us as well. He will be there for us for a long time.
    So Billy I thank you for the gift of 21 years of friendship. For the stories, and the episodes, and the memories, that each of us have in our own special way. And I wish blessings upon his family. We all will miss you.

    Lorretta Brown
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    Condolences to Margo Rye and family. May God’s love provide you with strength and peace.

    Bruce & Cecilia de Pickles
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    Beverly, Bryan and family. We enjoyed being with Bill on a couple of occasions. We can see his important legacy in your family of fact finding and
    truthfulness all while having fun. Great qualities! HUGS to all. May our GOD the Holy Spirit fill the void left by Bill with fond memories.

    Rebecca and Dennis Bilbrey
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    Our deepest and heartfelt sympathies to Margo Rye and family. Praying for peace and comfort to all those that loved and will miss this wonderful man.

    Elaine Shaw
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    We are so sorry to hear of your loss. We met Mr. Wheeler at Margo’s wedding when my husband Cliff performed the ceremony. He was a very kind man and one who was delighted and proud of his daughter that day.

    Sharla Taylor
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    Margo so sorry to hear of your loss. May God grant you & your family comfort.

    Tundra Nicolas
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    Margo and family please receive my heartfelt condolences and prayers in the loss of your Dad. I know how much you loved and cared for him. Be encouraged! You were always right there when he needed you! Prayers for the famil

    Janine Bradford
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    I love you always and forever Bill.

    Dale Hohler
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    Margo & Beverly …..I know I don’t need to share the obvious but your Daddy was a real treat. I met many folks during my 40+ years in the Bus Industry but few characters I enjoyed as much. Even in the heat of summer I thought it was more important to spend time with Bill instead trying to squeeze in one more sales call before I flew back to Ohio. It was time well spent and will always be treasured. He was a great friend ,mentor and historian and is missed greatly.

    Dale Hohler
    13 Oct 2022
    10:41am

    Margo……I waited too long to submit my thoughts and today the site would not accept my thoughts. Apologies for my taking so long. He was a treat indeed and I miss him greatly. All the best. Dale

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The Gillilands
The Gillilands[click to read more]
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Dear John,

It was such a nice pleasure to meet you, and what you had planned for my father just took my breath away. It was so special to hear you tell us how he would just come over to talk with you. I think it brought him much comfort. Tha you for putting that Air Force article of him on your website. I am going to have a replica made of the painting of his plane to give you.

Thank you again for all you have done to honor our dad.

Love, The Gillilands

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