Dr. Robert Aaron Wheeler, 57, passed away June 29, 2009, at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital after a short battle with cancer, which was a risk associated with his kidney transplant for treatment of polycystic kidney disease.
Bob was born in Lewiston, Idaho on Oct. 5, 1951, to Ralph A. Wheeler Sr. and Joan C. Wheeler. He grew up in Eastern Oregon, living at several Forest Service ranger stations. This is where he developed his love for fishing, hunting and forestry.
He graduated in 1974 from Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Science in forestry. He continued his education with a master's degree in forestry from Colorado State University in 1978. After working for a private lumber company in Bend, Ore., for eight years, he moved to Hawaii where he worked on agro-forestry research for five years at the University of Hawaii.
Bob traveled extensively with this job, visiting many South Pacific and Southeast Asia countries. While at Hawaii, he developed a fast growing variety of the tree, Leucaena, which is now grown and used throughout Indonesia, South America, Mexico and Australia. He then returned to school and received his doctorate from Purdue University in 1993. From there, Bob spent a year teaching forestry at Alemaya University in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.
He returned to work for the state of Montana and built his dream log house in Red Lodge, Mont. Bob moved to Fairbanks in 1997, where he worked for the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service as a forestry specialist. His most recent project was developing cold tolerant apple trees that would grow and thrive in the Interior. Bob was active in the local, state and national forestry associations, and many committees associated with the university, as well as local and national cooperative extension organizations.
Bob was married to his best friend and love of his life, Beverly, for 35 years. They enjoyed fly fishing, fishing in Valdez and traveling. He also loved to run, having run more than 60 marathons and many hundreds of shorter races in many different countries. After his kidney transplant in June 2007, he was able to resume running and won a silver medal in the 1,500 meter run at the U.S. Transplant Games in July 2008. Another passion was snorkeling at many of the places that he visited.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Ray and Alta Wheeler and John and Minnie Ewing; and his mother, Joan Wheeler.
Bob is survived by his wife, Beverly; father, Ralph Wheeler Sr., of Spirit Lake, Idaho; brother and sister-in-law, Ralph and Myrna Wheeler Jr. of Springfield, Ore.; sister and brother-in-law, Kathy Wheeler and James Rankins of Fieldbrook, Calif.; brother and sister-in-law, Greg and Lisa Wheeler of Eugene, Ore.; nieces, Melissa, Melanie and Michaela Wheeler and Morgan and Rob Galliano and their son, Rowan.
Bob and his family would also like to acknowledge his living kidney donor, Tracey Kelty of Edgerton, Wis., who allowed him to continue to enjoy his normal activities the last couple of years and who had become a very good friend.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Tuesday, July 7, at UAF Georgeson Botanical Gardens. Running shoes and fishing shirts are considered appropriate attire.
Contributions in Bob's memory may be made to the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation, 9221 Ward Parkway, Suite 400, Kansas City, MO 64114-3367, or online at pkd.cure.org; or to the
, 30 East 33rd St., New York, NY 10016 or online at www.kidney.org.
Arrangements were by Fairbanks Funeral Home.