James (Jim) Wheeler 39B

Well dad – here we all are, feeling sad as we say goodbye to you.

I wanted to say a few words, not only for myself, but also mum, Aly, Steve, Shelly and Richie. As a husband, dad and grandad you have loved us with all your heart, and you have worked hard to give us everything. One thing that anyone who knows you would say is that you have made a great success of your life in so many ways.

From humble beginnings in a Salvation Army home in Portsea with your mum, brother Fred and sister Jean, your drive and determination saw you joining the army at 14 to learn a trade and serve across Europe and North Africa. In this you showed your independent spirit, which remained strong throughout your life.

You and mum met in 1954, married in 1956 and enjoyed 60 happy years together. In the early days you worked hard to buy your own home, and secure a good future for your family. You worked for Metal Box for more than 30 years as a Maintenance Engineer, including a stint in Kenya in the 1970’s, a wonderful adventure for the whole family. Keenly family oriented, we never doubted we were central to your life.

You enjoyed an active life, continuing many sports well into your 70’s and 80’s. These included swimming, running, climbing – reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya – sailing, canoeing, cycling, walking, badminton, squash, and last but not least family rounders matches with Bill and Rita and their children – Kevin and Andrew.

Throughout all of this you made many good friends along the way. You have outlived many of them, but we do have 4 old friends here today. Bill and Rita, the next door neighbours in Portchester in the 1950’s, and Bob who worked with you at Metal Box, and John from canoeing.

Dad wasn’t a total paragon of virtue – he did have some annoying characteristics. He could be stubborn, opinionated at times, and quite outspoken. He had an irreverent sense of humour, which endeared him to his friends whilst at the same time embarrassing mum! He infuriated Aly and I by rarely spending any money on himself. To all of us though, he was extremely generous.

Dad has been ill for the last 6 ½  years, and he found life increasingly difficult. He spent the last month in hospital. We were all able to celebrate Christmas with him at queen Mary Hospital, and he enjoyed giving and receiving gifts, wearing silly hats, and eating the obligatory turkey dinner. This is a great memory for all of us, because we were together as a family.

So, how will we remember him?

You will all have your favourite memories I’m sure, and here are a few of ours……..

From Me – a memory which always makes me smile and sums my dad up in so many ways. He took up canoeing later in life and was a member of the Portsmouth Canoe Club. He enjoyed spending time on the Solent, but disliked spending time in club meetings, which he attended rarely and unwillingly. It was with disgust that he told us one night when he returned from the Annual General Meeting, that he had been elected Chairman. He soon got his own back though – his first resolution was that pensioners (of which he was one) should have free lifetime membership.

From Aly and Steve – dad’s great sense of fun. There was one famous Christmas when dad wore all of his presents at once – sitting there in various jumpers, swimming goggles, socks etc. Getting warmer and warmer by the minute and then falling asleep. It is believed that a bottle of Baileys played a part in this.

From Shelly and Richie – mum and dad took Shelly and Richie out for the day when they were young children. It was raining hard, and so they decided to picnic in the car. All four sat in the boot of the estate car, and soon the windows steamed up. It was too good an opportunity to miss – dad wrote a rude word on the window, much to their amusement.

From Mum – dad was the most caring person, looking after her from the age of 17, and focusing so much of his effort on her and the family.

And finally, dad was informal in many ways, but also had a sense of occasion, and would be pleased that we all are here today to remember him in this formal setting.

Footnote: by Ray Stevens, OBAN editor:

Three of us represented the AOBA at the funeral, and there was a remarkable amount of people there. I asked if I could change this obituary as it was written for friends and family to hear. But having heard it at the crematorium and re-read it, I decided not to, as I feel that it shows the true sentiment and feelings exhibited that day   Ed

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