Jerry Wheetley, fisherman, rock-lover, and Jerry-jokester extraordinaire, died peacefully on January 27th, 2021 after putting up one of the fiercest battles against cancer that ever was. His best friend and partner-in-life of 30 years, Tay Hack, was by his side, holding him, whispering to him words of love and comfort as he took his final breath.
Jerry is survived by; his partner, Tay Hack, and their two daughters Heather Warr, and Candace Minster; his previous children, Christopher, Eric, and Virginia Wheetley; his brother: Kenny Wheetley and Kenny’s devoted wife Deb and their children Stacey, Diane, and Kenny Lee; his brother David Wheetley; his mother-in-law Terry Thomas who he loved as his own mother; his sons-in-law, George (June) Warr, and Mark Minster; his grandchildren, Breana (Poohie), Bianca(Jade), Isaiah, Roman, Judah, and Olive; his beloved dogs, Ozzie and Bowie; and his grand-dog Lola. And we surely know that Jerry is having lots of fun playing again with our dear departed pets who he loved unconditionally: Jasper, Noah, Ben, Zoe, and Dodgie.
Jerry was born to Marvin and Mary Wheetley on December 17th, 1955 in Peru, Indiana. He grew up tromping through the Wabash and Eel Rivers where he first learned his lifetime love of rocks, his fascination of turtles, and his everlasting passion for fishing. Jerry remained an avid fisherman and often fished with his good friends Vance Cole and Mark Hilgart, and his daughters, Heather and Candace, every chance he could. He would often wander the shore, looking for interesting rocks whenever the fish weren’t biting. Fishing was so central to his family, that Heather chose to get married at one of the family’s favorite fishing spots. Years later, he eagerly shared his fishing passion with his grandkids. He loved cooking his special fried bluegill for anyone who would eat it—especially his grandchildren—but never divulged that his secret recipe came from a bag of Aunt Jemima’s cornmeal. One thing he did divulge was his “Crappie Red-eye” recipe, which he proudly published in one of his favorite fishing magazines.
A Vietnam veteran, Jerry enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 17 and served active duty for 6 years. He experienced several overseas tours of duty, including helping evacuees to safety during the fall of Saigon. Jerry also survived being a POW. His heroic actions included freeing himself and his fellow prisoners of war, earning him multiple military honors. He always embodied the best of the best of our military. Semper Fidelis. Forever a Marine, even at age 64, Jerry disarmed and took down a knife-wielding assailant who threatened to attack a coworker, thereby ensuring her safety.
Jerry was also a good friend and mentor to many, touching countless lives in such positive ways. This was especially apparent within the Narcotics Anonymous community in Indiana and in Texas where he devoted decades of his life to serving and helping others. Moved by his experiences in N.A. he went back to school and earned his degree from Indiana University that led to his life’s work as a substance abuse counselor. He counseled many in their struggles with addiction, most recently at the Concho Valley CSCD in San Angelo, Texas.
His love of life, loyalty, kindness and compassion lives on in all of those who were fortunate enough to know and love him. He made this world a better place, and he is sorely missed. His “Jerry Jokes” will forever ring in our ears. He will always be our hero.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the following organizations that were very dear to him can be made in Jerry’s honor to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the ASPCA, or to American Humane’s Pups4Patriots program which provides service dogs to veterans. (Most memorial gifts ask for a recipient email address. You may list firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be notified of any donations made to these non-profits in Jerry’s honor.
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