Steve Wheeler, most recently of Gilbert, Arizona, passed away on January 26, 2024, at the age of 75 after a long illness. Steve was a devoted son, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend. A unique and tender-hearted man, he will be dearly missed.
Steve was the only child of Richard and Beth Wheeler of Evanston, Illinois. Steve often recalled an idyllic childhood, frolicking around the neighborhoods of suburban Chicago with children and family dogs, playing stickball and kick the can. From his mother, Steve inherited wit, a love of animals, and a passion for sports. Steve and Beth rooted on the Cubs from the bleachers of Wrigley Field and the Blackhawks from the rafters of old Chicago Stadium. Any game they could not attend was on WGN radio and television. From his father, a former stage actor at the Cleveland Playhouse who preferred Ella Fitzgerald over Jack Brickhouse, Steve inherited a love of music, a distinctive voice, and a gift for “on air” performance.
An excellent student, Steve graduated from Evanston Township High School and then earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1970, where he sang in the Glee Club. Steve was diagnosed as a youth with Type 1 Diabetes and managed it in stride his entire adult life. After graduation, Steve worked as a radio reporter and broadcaster. After a time working at a radio station in St. Charles, Illinois, Steve took a job as the News and Sports Director for KLMO radio in Longmont, Colorado, covering local events and announcing high school sports. In his free time, Steve loved to play duplicate bridge, ultimately earning Life Master status with the American Contract Bridge League.
Through a Front Range bridge club in the mid-1970s, Steve met Owen and Rita Irby. They would introduce Steve to their daughter Cathy, a young widow with a son, Andrew Dale (born 1969). Steve and Cathy were married March 27, 1977, and Steve became Andy’s father. In 1979, Steve and Cathy had another son, Travis Monroe. During the week, Steve managed Schapell Jewelers, Owen’s jewelry and watch-repair store at Crossroads Mall in Boulder, while continuing to announce prep games on the weekends for KLMO. In the early 1980s, Steve was also the radio broadcaster for the Colorado Flames, a minor league team with the Central Hockey League in Denver.
Steve was a doting father and husband. After a long day’s work, Steve was always ready for a game of catch or to break out the typewriter to “help” with a last-minute book report. Evenings, Steve and Cathy would work acrostics and play double-solitaire, talking and laughing, with music in the background. At family gatherings, Steve enjoyed bridge, good food, and funny stories. But he often could be found running around and playing ball outside with the children, while the other adults stayed indoors. Possessing a great mind for facts, Steve awed everyone with his recall of names and numbers in many settings, from athletes and sports statistics, to work orders of jewelry-store customers, to the birthdates and anniversaries of his many new extended family members.
In 1990, Steve and his family moved to Richmond, Virginia. Soon after, Steve became a letter carrier with the United States Postal Service. The job was a perfect fit for Steve, who loved being outside, had an incredible knack for memorizing hundreds of names and addresses, and looked forward to greeting all the dogs along his route with biscuits. In the late 1990s, Steve’s parents, Richard and Beth, moved from Evanston to Richmond to be closer to Steve and Cathy. Steve set them up in an apartment on his mail route, so that he could stop in on them daily in their final years. Always eager to be on the radio and to support women’s athletics, Steve was the radio voice from 1997 to 1998 for the Richmond Rage, a women’s professional team in the American Basketball League at the dawn of women’s professional basketball.
Like his parents, Steve loved to travel, especially by car. Steve and Cathy would take weekend drives throughout central Virginia and enjoyed vacations with children and grandchildren. In the early 2000s, Steve joined a men’s singing group, The Virginians, as a baritone. With that group, Steve and Cathy went on a singing tour to Russia. Each Valentine’s Day for several years, Steve would deliver “singing Valentines” throughout the Richmond area as part of a barbershop quartet.
After Steve retired from the Post Office, Steve and Cathy moved to Gilbert, Arizona in 2014, near their son Travis (who has been living in Arizona since 2004) and his family. Unfortunately, Steve suffered from progressive dementia and moved into assisted living in 2019, but he continued to enjoy frequent family visits and sports on television.
Steve passed away peacefully on January 26, 2024. Donations in his memory can be made online with the American Diabetes Association or the Alzheimer’s Association. A celebration-of-life memorial service will be held at Gilbert Memorial Park on Friday, February 16, at 2:00 p.m. Comfortable and colorful attire, please. Livestream is available on request. The family can be contacted at email@example.com.