John Lewis Wheeler, 65 of Terre Haute, passed away on April 24, 2019 in his home, after a recently discovered progressive illness.
John was born the son of John Lewis and Phyllis Eloise Bevington Wheeler in Peru, Indiana, September 13th, 1953. He is survived by his beautiful wife, Claudia, who he married in 1985, along with their son, John Lewis and wife Alyssa of Virginia, daughter Melissa and her companion Neal Chander of England, step-daughters Debbie McCullough and Tina Hines as well as seven grandchildren, many nieces and nephews and two sisters, Margaret Rodecap and Linda Accosta, all of whom survive him. He is also survived by his great and good friend, John Wood of Terre Haute.
John graduated from Taylor High school in Center, Indiana and was a boy scout receiving honors of Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow. He has been proudly associated with emergency medical services since 1972 when he became a charter member of the National Registry of EMTs. He has served as an EMT, Paramedic and Emergency Medical Dispatcher, respectively, for several emergency services and multiple volunteer fire departments. Since 1999, John has been associated with Trans-Care Ambulance where he recently retired due to his illness. He was instrumental in the opening of that service, designing the communications center and installing its initial software.
John was an active member of the Wabash Valley Genealogy Society and he enjoyed camping, hiking and boating in his private time. With his friend John Wood, he particularly enjoyed any type of racing that involved a motor as demonstrated by their yearly trips to NASCAR venues.
Services will be officiated by Gary Foust in Greiner Funeral Home, 2005 N 13th Street, on Monday, April 29, 2019, at 2:00p.m. Visitation will be from 11:00a.m. until service time on Monday. A procession will follow services, to Trans-Care, where his final call will be given. Cremation will be scheduled after services, and a private burial will be held in Roselawn Memorial Park at a later date.
John Wheeler was born on September 13, 1953, in Peru, Indiana blessing the lives of his mother, Phyllis and his father, John.
John graduated from Taylor High School in Center, Indiana – an unincorporated town in Howard County near Kokomo in in 1971. While at Taylor, John became an Eagle Scout and received the Order of the Arrow – a prestigious award for those who exemplify the Boy Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.
It was the beginning of what would turn out to be a life lived in the service of others.
During those high school years, John could evidently sing well because he was selected to be a member of the Indiana All State Choirs in 1969, 1970 and 1971. One other note about John while he was at Taylor: in 1970, John ran in the State High School Cross County competition and the finished 97th out of 98 runners. He managed to beat the runner who fell and broke his leg. So, while singing and helping others may have been his thing, running apparently was not.
Following high school, John attended ITT Tech Architectural Engineering, but it appears that what was to be Architectural Engineering’s loss would be Emergency Medical Services’ gain.
John made his first ambulance run with his father on January 1st, 1969 – he would have been 16 at that time and it spurred John to become an Advanced First Aid Instructor.
John continued his life of service to others by becoming a member of the Taylor Township, Indian Heights Volunteer Fire Department. He would go on from there to serve on other fire departments including Wayne Township in Indianapolis, and both Honey Creek and Seelyville Fire Departments in Vigo county.
John attended Trauma School – which was an older name for EMT Class -- at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Dr. Henry Bock – a pioneer in emergency medicine – was his instructor. John graduated the class and became certified in 1972 as a charter member of the National Registry of EMT’s and Paramedics.
John would go on to become a Paramedic in 1984, receiving his training at St Vincent Hospital, Indianapolis. As a Paramedic, he affiliated with several Indianapolis hospitals.
John was first employed in EMS by Myers Ambulance – a long-running private service in Greenwood. From there, he moved to Wishard Ambulance Service where his work was honored with a “key to the city” for his actions in EMS in 1984. From Wishard, he moved on to Aid Ambulance – which became Rural Metro in 1990’s -- then on to Trans-Care. He was one of Trans-Care’s first employees as an Emergency Medical Dispatcher helping to establish Trans-Care dispatch and build out its first computer system. He remained with Trans--Care until his recent retirement this year.
While serving as a Paramedic, John was part of the team that followed the Pan Am Games torch team throughout the state. He was given secret service and homeland security clearance when he was assigned to President John F, Kennedy during a visit to Indiana. For 13 years, John was assigned to what was known as Ambulance 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- which was the ambulance that responded to all accidents/emergencies on the track surface.
If that wasn’t enough, John also did a little moonlighting that had him bumping elbows with some celebrities. He held a part time job driving a limousine for Sunshine Promotions where he met – and transported -- several entertainers including Elton John, The Beach Boys and Charlie Daniels.
Everyone who has known John, has a story to tell.
John Thrasher – a long time friend and Trans-Care’s current Central Indiana EMS Director – relates that he met John Wheeler back in 1979 when Thrasher was at Aid Ambulance and John was at Wishard Ambulance Indianapolis Dispatch.
Over the years, the two of them spent hours playing cribbage, rummy, messing with computer bulletin board services, hanging out at Judd Logan's and The Recovery Room and working EMS.
Not long after John finished medic class at St. Vincent, he transferred to Aid Ambulance in Terre Haute in those days both running out of and living at Regional Hospital. Those of you who have seen Emergency know that the early days of EMS were the days of the "bio-phone", telemetry, Lifepack 5's and calling in for orders for everything they did. When Thrasher started at Trans-Care, and it was ready for our own dispatchers, John Wheeler was the perfect choice.
John Thrasher says, “It's been a pleasure working with John. He is respected and loved by crews and I never hear a bad word about him. I hope John knows how important he is/was to all of us!”
Lee Turpin, an American Medical Response Paramedic who is the current Chairman of the Indiana EMS Commission relates:
“I took my Primary Instructor course with John in 1987... July I believe, in Indianapolis. I saw him again when he served as a Paramedic following the Torch during the Pan Am games (1992 maybe?). We roomed together during the PI class and I’ll never forget John’s sense of humor and love of EMS.”
John Lewis Wheeler loved his wife, his children, EMS, and Trans-Care (not necessarily in that order). He lived a life of service to others whether treating them in the field, putting out their fires or sending help to them from his dispatch console.
May God bless him and those he leaves behind who will all miss him. You may have not run so well in 1970, John Wheeler, but you ran life’s good race doing unto and for others. RIP.
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