Dr. Thomas E. Wheeler, an old-fashioned Randallstown general practitioner who cared for his patients for more than four decades and was a World War II Navy veteran, died June 21 from heart failure at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Frederick.
The Mount Airy resident was 99.
Thomas Easson Wheeler was the son of Dr. Howard Laurence Wheeler, an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, Myrtle Bolden Wheeler, a homemaker.
He was born in Baltimore and raised on Hollins Ferry Road. He was a 1937 graduate of City College, where played varsity lacrosse.
Dr. Wheeler enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1937 and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1941 from the Johns Hopkins University.
“His father urged him to enlist in the Naval Reserve because he had been a combat surgeon during World War I and he wanted to spare his son from the horrors he had seen on the battlefield,” said his son, Thomas E. Wheeler Jr., a Montgomery County public schools history teacher who lives in Monrovia, Frederick County.
“He also told him that a really big war was coming and that he’d be safer serving in the Navy,” he said.
After World War II broke out, the Navy sent Dr. Wheeler to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in an accelerated program, from which he graduated in 1943.
“Because of the war, he went to medical school year round and graduated in 2½ years,” his son said.
After completing an internship and residency at the old South Baltimore General Hospital, now MedStar Harbor Hospital, he was assigned to active sea duty serving first on the battleship USS Texas.
Subsequent vessels he served on included the destroyer USS Tattnall on Atlantic convoy duty and the fleet repair ship USS Cadmus. He also served at the base hospital in Little Creek Naval Base in Norfolk, Va.
Dr. Wheeler was discharged in 1948 but remained a reservist until 1955, when he retired with the rank of lieutenant commander.
In 1949, he established his internal medical practice at the corner of Liberty and Cliftmar roads in Randallstown, where he “practiced old-fashioned patient care, including office hours and house calls for the next 40 years,” wrote his son in a biographical profile of his father.
“He’d see patients from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and again from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” his son said in a telephone interview. “During the middle of the day, he visited patients that were in the hospital.”
“The last car he had, which he gave me when I got my license, was a Chevy Impala convertible, which I drove all through college,” Mr. Wheeler said. “I think it had 150,000 miles on it before it rolled over and died.”
“He charged $5 for office visits and $10 for house calls. I used to go along with him on house calls and play with the children,” his son recalled.
Dr. Wheeler moved to a home on Melba Road near Ellicott City, and while he maintained his own practice, from which he retired in 1989, he also was a disability expert for the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn until retiring in 1995.
He was a member of the American Medical Association, Maryland Medical Association and Baltimore County Medical Association, of which he served as president in 1955.
“He loved practicing medicine, the Navy, sports and the beach. He traveled extensively in Europe and the Holy Land,” his son wrote. “He played aged group softball into his 70s and bowled in league duckpin competitions into his 80s.”
After retiring in 1995, Dr. Wheeler and his wife, the former Charlotte Heinecke, a J. Schoeneman Inc. clothing manufacturer clerical worker, whom he married in 1945, moved to the Pickersgill Retirement Community in West Towson., where they lived until her death last year.
After his wife’s death, Dr. Wheeler moved to Lorien Mount Airy in Mount Airy.
He was a former member, elder and deacon at Chaplegate Presbyterian Church in Marriottsville, and after moving to West Towson, joined Valley Presbyterian Church in Lutherville.
“He was a very humble and honorable man who was quick-witted and always full of jokes,” his son said. “When I was playing sports and complained about a call or the other team, he’d say, ‘Son, they’re on scholarship, too.’ ”
In addition to his son, he is survived by five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Another son, Howard Lawrence Wheeler II, died in 1987, and a daughter, Melanie Wheeler Porterfield, died in 1990.