Kenneth Bradford Wheeler

May 19, 1921 - September 10, 2012

05/19/1921 - 09/10/2012

Past Services

Thursday September 13, 2012
10:00 am
St. John's in the Wilderness Episcopal Church
Flat Rock, NC

Kenneth B. (ìKegî) Wheeler, 91, of Zirconia, NC, died at Elizabeth House, Four Seasons Hospice in Flat Rock on Monday, September 10, 2012. He served many productive years as director of physical education for the school children of Henderson County, Head Counselor of Camp Arrowhead for Boys, Marine Corps veteran of World War II and Korea, wilderness instructor with Outward Bound, and a living example of fitness and health.

Keg was born on May 19, 1921, in Wilmington, NC, the fourth child of the late Rev. William Hardin and Lula Richter Dowe Wheeler. In his infancy the family moved to Charlotte where his father served the next 18 years as Superintendant of Thompsonís Orphanage. A gifted athlete, Keg played football for Central High School and was selected for the 1941 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas all-star game. He volunteered for the Marines after Pearl Harbor, completed bombardier training, and served in combat with a long-range photographic reconnaissance squadron in the South Pacific.

Returning home to Charlotte in 1945, Keg played football one year at Wake Forest, studied veterinary science at South Georgia College, then transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for undergraduate and masterís degrees in physical education. Recalled to active duty as a Marine Gunnery Sergeant during the Korean War, Keg trained recruits for combat at Camp Lejeune, NC until receiving his honorable discharge. On August 26, 1952, Keg married Jo Anne Dingus, whom he met during a picnic for the counselors of Camp Arrowhead and Camp Glen Arden for Girls.

For the next 14 years, Keg taught physical education and coached various sports at Auburn University and Clinch Valley College, in Wise, Virginia. While in his 40s, Keg won the ìcaber tossingî competition three times at the annual Grandfather Mountain Highlands Games.

In 1965 the Wheelers returned to the mountains of North Carolina, and Keg accepted the new position of director of physical education training for the elementary school students of Henderson County. He created landmark, inexpensive elementary PE and outdoor-education programs that became state and national models. He adapted PE for the handicapped. Later, he was invited by the leading educational publisher Prentice Hall to compile his teaching methods and activities in a textbook for elementary school teachers. Published in 1991 with co-author Otto Spilker, Physical Education Curriculum Activities Kit for Grades K-6 described and illustrated more than 500 fitness, dance, and sports activities. The book was widely used throughout the state and beyond. In 2003 Keg was inducted into the Henderson County Education Foundation Hall of Fame.

During his many summers as Head Counselor at Camp Arrowhead, Keg initiated memorable traditions like the infamous ìPot Hole Award,î earned by submerging oneself at daybreak in an icy, waterfall sinkhole on five consecutive mornings.

In the 1970s he became a counselor for North Carolina Outward Bound, guiding seniors through self-discovery courses in the wilderness. Later he taught physical education techniques to PE teachers at UNC Asheville.

Keg was an active member of St. Johns in the Wilderness Episcopal Church in Flat Rock for nearly 50 years, serving on the Vestry as the Junior Warden, and organizing the Menís Breakfast Club, and developing the Lay Eucharistic Ministry to deliver Holy Communion sacraments to homebound parishioners.

Keg was preceded in death by his sisters, Sarah (Sally) Wheeler Alexander and Jean Wheeler Pharr, and his brother, William Hardin Wheeler, Jr. He is survived by Jo Anne, his wife of 60 years; their daughter Cynthia (Cindy) Ann Wheeler of Auburn, CA, and son, Kenneth (Tad) Bradford Wheeler, Jr. of Bat Cave, NC; three grand-children, Sally Virginia Lee in Rome, Italy, Jessica Anne Wheeler of Forest City, NC, and William Patrick Lee, of Asheville, NC; and seven nieces and nephews: William B. Wheeler of Southport, NC, Edward B. Wheeler of Morganton, NC, James Hardin Wheeler of Auckland, New Zealand, Jeannie Pharr Gilland and Henry N. Pharr of Charlotte, NC, William T. Alexander of Hagerstown, MD, and Joseph H. Alexander of Asheville.

Keg loved school children, dogs, wildflowers, teaching, whittling, rafting, boxing, hiking the mountains around his ridge-top home, and life itself.

A Memorial Service will be held on September 13th at 10AM at St. Johnís in the Wilderness Episcopal Church in Flat Rock, with the Rev. John Morton and the Rev. Alex Viola officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of the Henderson County Education Foundation ìKeg Wheeler Outdoor Education Fund,î PO Box 1267, Hendersonville, NC 28793.

The family is grateful for the care and comfort provided by the staff at Elizabeth House and the clergy and congregation of St Johns in the Wilderness Church.

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Myra (Mullinax) Hill
8 years ago

I am so sorry for your loss. Mr. Wheeler certainly made a positive impact on me as a child. My thoughts and prayers are with your family as you grieve this tremendous loss.

Janet Gover
8 years ago

So sorry to hear of your loss. He was my first PE teacher in elementary school. We all loved him and enjoyed participating in the activities he planned for us.

Kimberley Reynolds-Frederick
8 years ago

Dear Jo,

I was saddened to learn of Keg’s death. Chunk and I spent so much time up on Buzzard Rock with you and your family. Very special times. In fact, I ran into Keg at the service for Chunk a few years ago. It was wonderful to see him again. Please know that I hold you , Cindy and Tad in my thoughts and prayers. I always felt that Keg was such a special person. I was priveleged to know him , even briefly.

Take care,


Deborah Patterson
8 years ago

I am sorry, I did not know that Keg was ill. I worked with him at in the schools and will always remember his smile, his words of encouragement and his gentle voice. Keg was a pioneer in physical education and Henderson County will always be indebted to him and the programs he set up for our children. What a wonderful man he was, a kind and gentle soul, and a man who demonstrated the love of Christ as he lived his life. I will miss him greatly. My prayers will be lifted for the family for God’s peace and comfort in the coming days and months.

Deborah Wedgworth Altman
8 years ago

My prayers are with the Wheeler family during this time.

May God bless each and everyone of you.

With love,

Deborah Wedgworth Altman

8 years ago


Sonia Rollins Gironda
8 years ago

Mr. Wheeler was my PE teacher growing up and he was an incredible guy! He made PE fun and was a joy to be around. I think of him often now that my children are in school or when I see a jeep somewhere in town. May you all find some comfort in this time of sorrow and know he touched so many lives.

Leslie Keener Sabo
8 years ago

My thoughts and prayers are with you all at this time. He was one of the most incredible men and had such an impact on so many lives. He was an amazing educator and I can remember him encouraging children with love and enthusiasm. As a young child he helped me realize I could do whatever I set my mind to. I remember him helping me cross the monkey bars at EFR elementary school for the first time. It was one of those moments I will never forget. He will be missed. I feel blessed to have been one of the MANY he had a positive impact on. What a great man.

June Beddingfield
8 years ago

Just had to express my condolences for a remarkable man and leader for the youth of Henderson County. I for one always admired him and loved the fact that he instilled a love and pride in me for physical activity. I bemoaned that my children and grands did not have a ‘Mr Wheeler’. Prayers for grace and mercy during your loss…

June W Beddingfield (alumni of Tuxedo Elementary)

Father Charls Cannon
8 years ago

Keg was our finest and best. He will be sorely missed at St. John’s.