Homer G. Wheeler passed away May 5, 2010, after an extended fight with esophageal cancer. He was 79 years old.
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Homer was born Jan. 10, 1931, in Big Timber to Gina (Ellingson) Wheeler and Homer Otis Wheeler. He graduated from Big Timber High School in 1948. After high school, he worked for the Grand Canyon National Park Service and eventually started with the Montana Highway Department-now the Montana Department of Transportation-in 1950. He started college in 1954 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Montana State University in 1959. He spent 30 years with the MDT in Helena and then moved on to the Federal Highway Department in Austin, Texas, until his retirement in 1994. He continued to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in different disaster sites around the country until illness took him out of the work force in 2006.
During his college years, he met his "bride," Betty May Engraf, and on June 23, 1957, they were married in Hettinger, N.D. They were married for almost 52 wonderful years before her passing in January 2009. They had two children, Brian Jay and Gae Colleen. Homer was truly dedicated to his children and grandchildren and cherished his time with them.
Homer was baptized and confirmed in the Big Timber Lutheran Church and his work in the church was a great source of pride for him and his family. He provided guidance for many while at Our Redeemer's Lutheran Church in Helena and worked as church treasurer for an extended period while at Atonement Lutheran church in Missoula. During these years he also had a great fondness for Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp as he served on its board of directors for many years.
Homer was a man with many gifts. He was highly organized and above all, he placed others first. He had a way of making anyone he came in contact with feel special and cared for. He played baseball and basketball in high school, despite losing his sight in his right eye after a baseball injury when he was 14. He was a leader at work and in the church. He enjoyed hunting and golf through much of his years and took to playing the accordion, which he enjoyed playing for his grandchildren and for anyone who would listen. He loved being around his grandchildren, and Homer's love and dedication to his family will be greatly missed.
Homer is survived by his daughter, Gae Lewis, her husband Jeremy and their children, Amber, Taylor, Emily and Cydni; his son, Brian Wheeler, his wife Amy and their children, Shelbie, Dava, and Tyler; and his sister, Hazel.
Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 13, at the American Lutheran Church in Newport. Sherman-Knapp Funeral Home and Crematory in Newport is in charge of arrangements. Family and friends are invited to sign the online guest book at sherman-knapp.com
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on May 9, 2010