Billy O. ‘Bill’ Wheeler

WALNUT — Billy O. “Bill” Wheeler, 89, of rural Walnut passed away at 8:39 a.m. Monday, March 13, 2023, at his home.

Bill was born on Jan. 1, 1934, in rural Erie in his grandparent’s house to Ralph and Lillie (Boaz) Wheeler. They moved to the farm outside of Walnut a few months later.

Bill attended school at Science Hill for three years until it closed. He then attended Walnut, graduating with the Class of 1951. He attended Neosho County Community College for one year then quit to farm with his father. At this time he also was employed to put in the electric line west of his house from St. Paul to Elsmore. He still has a 12-foot shovel used to clean out the holes for the poles.

Bill married Vera Kennedy on Feb. 13, 1955, at the Walnut United Methodist Church. For a while, they lived in a house one-half of a mile south of her parents. They moved back into the homeplace shortly afterward. Here they raised three sons, Ken, Dick and Don.

Bill was 68-year member of the Vulcan Masonic Lodge. He was master of the lodge in 1961, 1966 and 2000. He was district deputy grand master in 1963. He was awarded outstanding Mason in Kansas in 2005. When the lodge building burned down in 1969, he was instrumental in rebuilding it, and he finished most of the interior carpentry. He was also a 65-year member of the Walnut Eastern Star and served as worthy patron several times.

Bill was a founding member of the Walnut Ruritan Club and was the club’s second president. He helped repair the town ball diamond, which hosted several tournaments. He served on the Walnut school board until the school consolidated with Girard. He was on the Farm Bureau Board of Directors for several years.

Bill farmed at Walnut and south of Erie. He also raised feeder pigs. He retired from farming in the 1980s and then worked for the city of Erie until retiring. After retirement, he mowed the Walnut and Glenwood cemeteries for several years.

Bill enjoyed playing cards, softball and basketball. He played second base for years on Walnut teams. He played town team basketball in the 50s and 60s. He taught his sons to play also. Farming was always put on hold to get the boys to a game. He also enjoyed guns and hunting. He had his federal firearms license for 35 years and traveled the state setting up at gun shows. After retirement, deer hunting was very important and he has an antler collection in the garage that he was proud of. He shot a 14-point buck, using one arm, after his stroke. Bill and Vera also enjoyed traveling and had been to 41 states.

He is survived by his wife, Vera, of the home; three sons, Ken (Marie) of Fort Scott, Dick (Lisa Rehm) of Weir and Don (Sue) of Hiattville; eight grandchildren, Ryan (McKenzie), Dustin (Meg), Ali (Chris), Melissa, Justin, Erica (Ryan), Zach (Amanda) and Jonathan (Kayley); 10 great-grandchildren, Jaxson, Damon, Caleb, Corbin, Lincoln, Gabe, Adriana, Addison, Collins and Triston and another on the way; a sister, Mary Ann Buscher (Erie); and brothers-in-law, Marvin, Wilbur (Janie), Joe (Esther) and Dean (Cheryl) Kennedy. 

A celebration of life will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Vulcan Masonic Lodge in Walnut for family and friends.  The family suggests memorials to the Vulcan Masonic Lodge. 

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