Leslie Wheeler enjoyed confounding local folks who knew of his youth in Southern California by describing himself as a native Oregonian. Born in Eugene on December 8, 1928, Les moved with his family to Alhambra in the Los Angeles area when he was a child. He graduated from Mark Keppel High School before going on to John Muir Junior College in South Pasadena. His first job was with Weber Tool Co. in Los Angeles, in 1943, as a shop helper at the age of fourteen. Weber Tool manufactured gun mounts for Navy anti-aircraft guns during World War II. After the war’s end and the completion of schooling, Les went to work for Modern Tool and Die as an apprentice tool and die maker. Modern Tool and Die evolved into Tools Inc., where Les became half-owner. All during this time, he was a mentor for vocational education and apprenticeship training. Les was a member of the American Society of Tool and Manufacturing Engineers and also served as chairman of the Southern California Tool and Die Association Apprenticeship Committee. After thirty-nine years in the Los Angeles area, Les and his wife Margaret decided it was time for a change.
Their son, Paul, was a major impetus for their choice of Corvallis. He was a star football player in his high school and had been recruited to play for Oregon State University. When Les and Margaret saw Corvallis, they decided it was more than just a nice place to visit. They sold everything they had in the world and bought a large plot of land on fertile Kiger Island, where they farmed.
Les was an active in the community. He was a on the BCF board for ten years, serving as President in 1989 and 1990. He also served on the board of the Benton County Historical Society and as chairman of the Board of Equalization of Benton County. He was a member of the founding group and second chairperson of the Benton County Commission on Children and Families. He served on the Vocational Education Committee on farming for the Corvallis School System. He also was a longtime member of the Oregon Morgan Horse Association, where he was show chairman of the Northwestern Regional Morgan Horse Show in Salem for three years. Les’ consuming passions, though, were his antique Fords and wood and metal working in his shop. He and Margaret enjoyed longtime membership in local antique car clubs. The Wheelers also enjoyed traveling, especially to see their three married children and several grandchildren.
MARGARET DOROTHY WHEELER. Leslie met Margaret Sieck in Alhambra, California, on a blind date in 1948, and they were married one and a half years later while Margaret was attending UCLA, where she was a Sigma Kappa. They started their family a year later, and Margaret was busy raising three children and working at Tools, Inc., in the office. After Les and Margaret moved to Oregon, she kept working with her husband on their Kiger Island farm, driving tractor and truck and helping manage their large strawberry crews. She also served in the community as treasurer of the Benton County Farm Bureau and Altrusa. She worked twenty five years for the Election Board and plays bridge monthly with south Benton County farm wives, a group that was formed in the thirties. Margaret Wheeler passed away in her home in Corvallis on May 7th, 2009 at the age of 79.
DAVID MARK WHEELER. Les and Margaret’s eldest son, David Mark Wheeler, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Los Angeles and his doctorate in speech communication and theater history at the University of Oregon. He currently is a department head and professor at Moorhead State University in Minnesota. He met his wife Martha while both were teaching in Albany.
PAUL STEVEN WHEELER. The Wheeler’s second son, Paul Steven Wheeler, was recruited to play football at Oregon State University by Dee Andros. Paul was an outstanding football player at South High School in Torrance, California, making first string at CIF. He graduated from OSU with a degree in wildlife science in the School of Agriculture. He married Christine, who also graduated from OSU.
TINA LESLIE WHEELER-GIESBERS. Les and Margaret’s youngest child, Tina Leslie Wheeler-Giesbers, graduated from Corvallis High School as valedictorian. She received her bachelor of science in microbiology at OSU and doctorate of veterinary medicine at Washington State. She married Kenneth Giesbers and became a practicing veterinarian.
The Wheeler Family established this fund in 1993. Annual distributions from the fund are paid to the Benton County Historical Society & Museum.