Thomas Alan Wheeler was born on December 5, 1954 in Louisville, Kentucky to Doris (nee Stockhoff) and William Charles Wheeler. He had one brother, Bill (and his wife Jackie). Tom was raised in a comfortable setting with great grandparents, Fred and Elsie Stockhoff and Mayme Wheeler nearby. He attended incredible public schools, was active in church and Boy Scouts, played various sports, and vacationed throughout the US with his family.
Tom graduated with a BA in Economics from the University of Kentucky but spent the majority of his time with a group of friends in all stages of production of rock and jazz concerts for the university. By the time he graduated Tom knew he wouldn’t be happy as an economist, and went to work on a psychiatric ward of a local hospital. Here he found his calling. He earned a MA in rehabilitation counseling, then moved to Eastern Kentucky for his first job as a counselor. At this time he married his first wife, Barbara Cassin, and their marriage lasted 16 years.
Tom and Barb moved to Bend, Oregon in 1981 and he worked for Vocational Rehabilitation Division, and then moved to Eugene in 1984. There he worked for Laurel Hill Center, helping adults with severe psychiatric disabilities live and socialize in the community. While at LHC he built Laurel Grove Apartments.
In 1992 he went to work for South Lane Mental Health in Cottage Grove. At the time SLMH was a small struggling non-profit. Over the next 25 years Tom and his staff built a mission-based organization, each year helping more than 1,000 children and adults address their mental health concerns. Tom loved this work and was proud his organization was able to serve his newfound community.
Although he was glad he didn’t work as an economist he had a lifelong passion for economics, political science, and statistics. He was proud to be able to blend these interests with his passion for helping others through various commitments to helping people who were uninsured, homeless, and disabled.
In 1994 Tom divorced Barbara. He married Marsha Watson but this marriage was short-lived. In 2000 Tom married Toni Marie Spencer (nee Carrano). He became stepfather to Josiah, Hannah, and Rebekah, and later a grandfather to Selena, Isaac, Leo, Zayah, and Ares.
Tom loved reading and read biographies of every US president. He enthusiastically played guitar adequately, walked every day, enjoyed bridge and other games, traveled to Europe six times, and obsessively collected recorded music. Tom loved his life. His life was enhanced by his relationships with many mentors, friends, colleagues, and clients. He was gratified to be able to help others in his work and to be a good support to Toni and the kids. Funeral Service to be held on Monday, November 15th at 2:30pm at Smith-Lund-Mills Funeral Chapel in Cottage Grove, Oregon with a private interment at Fir Grove Cemetery.