Theodore Stanley “Ted” Richardson Wheeler, 91, of Iowa City, Iowa passed away peacefully in his sleep on Nov. 17 after 91 fulfilling years.
Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Jan. 30, 1931 to William Archie and Grace Marion (Richardson) Wheeler, Ted Wheeler excelled in athletics at a young age. He was raised in LaFayette, Georgia, before moving to Illinois, where he was a track and cross-country star at Evanston Township High School.
Upon graduating in 1950, Wheeler continued his running career at the University of Iowa, where he was an All-American and All-Big Ten runner.
As a student-athlete, Wheeler competed for the Hawkeyes and the University of Chicago Track Club. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Iowa in 1957.
Wheeler’s athletic prowess led him to the world stage as he became the first Black American to run the 1,500 meters in the history of the Olympics at the 1956 Games in Melbourne.
Sharing knowledge and working with others was always a passion for Wheeler; his transition to coaching was a logical choice. He served as the University of Iowa head track coach from 1978 to 1997 and cross-county coach from 1979 to 1987.
Aside from running techniques and strategy, Wheeler taught his athletes useful lessons that would serve them well long after their track careers ended.
A true Hawkeye legend as an athlete and coach, Wheeler earned induction into the Black American Hall of Fame, University of Iowa Athletic Hall of Fame, Drake Relays Hall of Fame and ETHS Athletic Hall of Fame. Wheeler was also an active member of the I-Club, an organization dedicated to supporting student athletes, and spent many years sponsoring scholarships for African American students at Iowa.
Although athletics were always a major part of Wheeler’s life, family was just as important. As a loving father to three children, Wheeler enjoyed nothing more than being a parent. He was also a loving brother, father, and grandfather.
Wheeler was blessed to spend 20 glorious years with his best friend and significant other, Lena Hoffmeier.
Wheeler is survived by his children, Theodore Wheeler II of St. Louis, James Wheeler of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Mary Frances Wheeler of Minneapolis; three grandchildren James Wheeler, Harrison Baker and Wheeler Baker; three siblings, Bud (Sharon) Wheeler of Winnetka, Hilde (Willie) Carter, Joyce (Steven) Dinkins of Grand Junction, Mich.; his significant other, Lena Hoffmeier of Iowa City; and many extended family members.
Wheeler was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers William and James and a sister Beverly McLeary. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec, 2 at Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service, 605 Kirkwood Avenue, Iowa City.
A celebration of Wheeler’s life with a sharing of memories will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service with visitation from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Oakland Cemetery.
Everyone is welcome to pay their respects. Wheeler’s family will be hosting a celebration of life next spring with details to come. His family would like to thank Legacy Gardens and Iowa City Hospice for their compassionate care. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in memory of Wheeler may be made to the Ted Wheeler Scholarship Fund and can be sent to the family of Ted Wheeler, 605 Kirkwood Avenue, Iowa City 52240.