April 21, 1930 - June 30, 2021
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).
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