Raymond L. Wheeler

Raymond Lavern Wheeler, 94, passed away at Hillview Health Care Center on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, due to complications of Alzheimer’s dementia. He was born June 17, 1925 – (twin to Ralph Edward), to Preston and Mary Helen Wheeler of Viola, Wis. They were joined by Lorraine and Loretta.

Raymond first married Helen Olson. They divorced in 1950 and Raymond married Barbara J. Held in 1952, and they divorced in 1974. His third marriage of 33 years was to Lynor Gaarder in 1979.

Ray grew up during the Great Depression, thus the family moved to whatever town his Dad could get a job. He had to change schools often, which made learning a challenge, as schools were behind or ahead in a particular subject. Raymond’s first job was picking apples along with his brother and other kids.

After being discharged from an Iowa hospital following World War II, the only job he found was driving a school bus for about a year in Soldiers Grove. He was an auto mechanic and body repairman for years before becoming self-employed doing the same. He had a used car dealership in later years along with the auto repair business. Ray drove school bus for 11 years for the Holmen School District after retiring from his auto businesses. In his mind he quit several times.

Raymond and Ralph both served in the Third Armored Division during World War II. Raymond was wounded when the tank he was in exploded from attack. Ralph was killed in action by enemy fire near the war’s end. Ray spent about nine months in various hospitals, the first hospital being in England.

Raymond liked to drive to a shopping mall or a store, travel to the Milwaukee State Fair, and attend care races in the Tri-state area. He liked to look around for a bit and then drive home. Once, as a family, drove to the Indy 500 in the mid 1960’s, and slept overnight in his pickup. He would often shop for a car in Madison or Milwaukee. He often traded auto’s, pickups, campers and boats. He liked playing cards, checkers, marbles as a kid, and he liked drawing. He taught himself to swim by swimming under water, gradually swimming at the surface. In his later years, he liked to camp. He liked to tease the younger family members to get a giggle or smile.

Deer hunting was his passion along with hunting rabbits and squirrels. Fishing was enjoyable also. Flying by plane was avoided since the experience of being in a Red Cross plane after his war injuries. Because his face was bandaged, he could only hear others say they were being followed by a German fighter, although the Red Cross plane was not shot down.

Raymond is survived by his daughter, Linda (Roger) Gunderson; estranged from son, Ralph, and daughter, Bonnie, from his first marriage; and estranged from his sister, Lorraine. He is also survived by grandchildren, Sherry (Paul) Wertanen and Shannon (Mike) Dentice, and others; and great-grandchildren, Julie, Jake and Jayda. Ray is further survived by step-children, Phillip, Gene (Helene), Keith, and Kay (Garold) Becker; 15 step-grandchildren; many step great-grandchildren and great, great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Ray was preceded in death by his twin brother, Ralph; his parents; his sister, Loretta; and his first and third wives.

Raymond’s mother lived to 104. She tended to large floral and vegetable gardens. His dad also was a mechanic and auto body repairman in Soldiers Grove, where the business was flooded several times. His maternal grandmother was a school teacher; his paternal grandfather played “fiddle” at barn dances and also was a blacksmith.

“Don’t do as I do – Do as I say.”

“Daylight in the swamp!”

A memorial gathering for family and friends will be held from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 19th, at Schumacher-Kish Funeral and Cremation Services, 907 Sand Lake Rd., in Onalaska, with military honors to be conferred at 1:00 p.m. outside the funeral home. A reception will then follow at 1:30 p.m. at the Onalaska American Legion. Memorials are preferred in lieu of flowers and will be donated in Raymond’s memory.