Former longtime Wood River Valley resident Raymond (Ray) McKinley Wheeler, 84, peacefully passed away at his home in Rathdrum, Idaho, on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010.
Ray was born Sept. 28, 1926, in Spokane, Wash., to Byrl and Loreatta (Rita Maddix) Wheeler. Ray was the second born of Rita's three sons.
Ray was raised in the Northwest. When Pearl Harbor happened, he wanted to leave school and enlist. His mother demanded that he finish school, and if the war was still happening, he could then join the fray. In 1944, he enlisted in the Navy, and proudly served aboard the LCDS 123 in the Pacific Theatre.
In 1949, Ray married Shirley Wheat. They had four children. The marriage ended in 1962. He later was briefly wed to Karen Turner, and fathered another daughter. In 1965, Ray met and married his final true love, Joy Pattison. Their union was blessed with two sons.
In his lifetime, Ray was a "jack of all trades." He worked as a cross-country trucker, logger, miner and mechanic, to name a few. He also worked many years in law enforcement, beginning in Ketchum, Idaho, as deputy marshal and then for the Blaine County Sheriff's Office as a deputy. While working in law enforcement, Ray saw firsthand the need for a quick response unit. So in 1973, he founded Blaine County Search and Rescue, where he served as commander for more than 10 years. Ray was also a licensed electrician working as lead electrician for Sun Valley Co. Following retirement to north Idaho he was a licensed electrical contractor and was the owner/operator of Wheeler Electric.
Ray had a passion for hunting, fishing and spending as much of his time outdoors as possible. He also loved snowmobile racing and riding in the winter. He was a member of the Sawtooth Snowmobile Club for many years.
Ray loved his family, storytelling and a good laugh. As a prankster he was hard to beat. His warmth and laughter will be missed.
Ray is survived by his wife, Joy, and grandson Robert Wheeler, whom they were raising, of Rathdrum, Idaho; brother Kenneth Bundy of Athol, Idaho; daughters, Eileen Mulhern of Post Falls, Idaho, Julia Springer of Hailey and Lari Stofel of Columbia, Tenn.; sons Steven Wheeler and Dennis Wheeler of Rathdrum. He is also survived by 17 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Ray was preceded in death by his parents, Byrl and Rita; his brother Roy; two of his sons, Michael and Robert; and grandson James.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Disabled American Veterans Group at www.dav.org.
A memorial service was held on Friday, Dec. 31, at the Yates Funeral Home in Hayden, Idaho. Graveside military services under the care of Wood River Chapel will take place next spring in Hailey. Friends are invited to leave condolences and share memories at www.woodriverchapel.com.