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Daniel B. 'Bix' Wheeler, Baltimore County educator, dies

Daniel B. 'Bix' Wheeler, teacher who rose to become a principal and a Baltimore Co. schools official, died.

Daniel B. "Bix" Wheeler, a former associate superintendent of physical facilities for Baltimore County public schools who enjoyed refinishing antique furniture, died Feb. 16 of a brain hemorrhage at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The longtime resident of the Hampton neighborhood of Baltimore County was 93.

"Bix had an impressive career and was a good friend. One of his strongest duties was staff relations and negotiating with the Baltimore County Board of Education," said Robert Y. Dubel, who headed Baltimore County public schools for 16 years before retiring in 1992.

"Bix, that's what we called him, was one of the strongest supporters of teachers and in negotiations was always an advocate of proposals that would improve their lot," said Dr. Dubel, of Glen Arm. "He was well liked by everyone. He was a very compassionate human being who spent his life trying to help people. He was a people person."

"He was a very colorful character and smart that was masked by an incredible sense of humor," said Nancy S. Grasmick, former state superintendent of schools and Baltimore County public schools area superintendent.

"When we were both at Greenwood [Baltimore County public school headquarters], it was a pretty staid place, but Bix could change it with a joke a minute," said Dr. Grasmick. "He had such an infectious laugh."

Daniel Bixler Wheeler was the son of farmers Joshua T. Wheeler and Bettie Bixler. He was born the youngest of four on the 200-acre family farm on Pot Spring Road in Timonium.

He later moved with his family to Lutherville and was a Towson High School graduate. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Forces at Western air bases as a mechanic working on B-24 Liberator bombers.

After the war, he attended Washington College on the GI Bill of Rights, earning a bachelor's degree in 1949. He later earned a master's degree in education from the University of Maryland, College Park.

He began his career teaching in Baltimore County public schools in 1949 and eventually was promoted to vice principal and then principal.

"He had been an extraordinary English and social studies teacher," said Dr. Dubel.

Dr. Wheeler served as the first principal of Holabird Junior High School in Dundalk when it opened in 1960, and later served as principal at Franklin, Pikesville and Woodlawn senior high schools.

While serving as principal at Woodlawn in the 1960s, Dr. Wheeler was asked to bring the student body across the street to see and hear President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had arrived at Social Security Administration headquarters to give an address.

"At the time, Woodlawn was the largest school in Baltimore County, and the organization of all of the students and the security precautions by the Secret Service was a huge undertaking, but he was able to make it happen with only a few hours' notice," said a daughter, Deborah Wheeler of Towson.

In 1968, Dr. Wheeler took a sabbatical and moved his family to Auburn, La., where he began studies at Auburn University that led to a doctorate in education in 1970. His dissertation, his daughter said, was on negotiating with teachers unions.

Dr. Wheeler returned from Auburn in 1970 and was named principal of Ridgely Junior High School, and then in the mid-1970s was appointed chief negotiator for Baltimore County's public schools.

He later was assistant superintendent, and at the time of his retirement in 1982 was associate superintendent for physical facilities.

"As area superintendent, Bix had 30 schools under supervision," said Dr. Dubel. "This was an entirely new field for him, and he did a great job."

"Bix forged relationships with his principals and believed in quality education for the students. He could give advice or criticism, but he did so with humor and humanism," said Dr. Grasmick, who lives in Phoenix, Baltimore County.

"His humanism drove people to him, and they admired him. He was one of the most engaging and unpretentious guys I have ever known. He was never threatening," she said.

His brother, Joshua R. Wheeler, a career educator who died in 2003, was Baltimore County superintendent of schools from 1970 to 1976.

Dr. Wheeler enjoyed woodworking. In his retirement, he combed secondhand stores and thrift shops looking for furniture to refinish, which he used in turn to help furnish his children's and grandchildren's homes.

He maintained an extensive woodworking shop in the basement of his home.

After completing a caning course, he "generously caned many chairs for family and friends," his daughter said.

"I have a beautiful desk that Bix refinished and gave me," said Dr. Dubel.

Dr. Wheeler continued woodworking until he was in his 90s.

He traveled extensively throughout the United States and Mexico with Harold Katz, a longtime friend.

Dr. Wheeler was a daily walker at Towson Town Center, where he met other walkers for coffee and conversation.

His wife of 66 years, the former Joy Gettel, died in 2014.

At Dr. Wheeler's request, no funeral services will be held.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by two sons, Daniel B. Wheeler Jr. of Independence, W.Va., and Bennett Wheeler of Towson; another daughter, Barbara Tyler of Towson; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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