John Wheeler’s Stories of Love and War

Aspen Trace resident John Wheeler and his late, beloved wife, Evelyn

We can’t think of a more fitting time to honor Aspen Trace resident John Wheeler, as he has many experiences to celebrate in light of Veterans Day as well as a beautiful love story worthy of a Hallmark movie.

At the age of 102, John has quite a life story to share. It all started in Kenton, Ohio, where he was born and raised. A few years after graduating from Kenton High School, at the height of World War II, he felt a calling to serve his country, specifically as an aviator in the Navy.

Little did John know, he’d be partnered up with a future sports legend in pre-flight school — Boston Red Sox all-star Ted Williams. By the time John met him, Williams had won his first Triple Crown for the team. A particular point of pride for John is his “one-minute boxing match” with Williams.

After training, John’s first assignment was on a Navy blimp, where his team searched for Italian submarines off the coast of Brazil and then Japanese subs along the California coast. It was on the shore of the Golden State where John met his bride-to-be, Evelyn. (Aspen Trace’s residential marketing director Myckenzie Horton said their “meet-cute” is one of her favorite stories she’s heard from residents.)

“Evelyn and I met on May 2, 1945, in the Skylark cocktail lounge of the Sunset Supper Club on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood,” John said. “I noticed she needed her cigarette lit, so I took out my trusty Zippo and obliged. Four dates and seven weeks later, we were married at St. Ambrose Catholic Church a few blocks down the street from where we met.”

They lived in California for a while, and John went on to serve in the Korean War. They then moved to John’s old stomping grounds of Kenton and lived there until 1961, when he accepted a job in Indianapolis.

John long dreamed of living to age 100 and celebrating 75 years of marriage with Evelyn. They made it to 76 years before she passed away in the spring of 2021.

In an online tribute to her, John wrote: “When she got her laptop, Evelyn chose Skylark26 (the name of the bar where we met and her birth year) as her ID. After 76 years with my girl it has come to an end, our life together was wonderful, filled with love and respect for each other.”

Last year, John published Memoirs of a 101-Year-Old Snippeteer, which includes “snippets” of his life — 30 stories of roughly 30 lines each.

With his energy and zest for life, John surely has plenty more stories left to tell.