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James Wheeler, Jr.

Friday, May 13, 2022 - by Stephen S. Mabry

James Wheeler, last Updated: 05/12/2022

Texas Lions Camp, Inc.
(830) 896-896-8500 |

From the Office of the President & CEO
Stephen S. Mabry

James Wheeler, Jr. - Until We Meet Again

Kerrville, TX - May 11, 2022. Together with his family and friends, Shawn and I recently bid fairwell to friend and mentor, James Wheeler, Jr. I was privileged and honored by his family to be asked to deliver a eulogy in his memory from the same pulpit I eulogized his life-long sweetheart of 56 years, Reba Wheeler - also on a Thursday - in September of 2020. A mere glance at James's obituary will give you an idea of the size and scope of his life's work, which is considerable by most anyone's standard.

Please feel free to review my notes from the thoughts I had to share on my friend, James Wheeler, Jr.


One week ago today, each of you here had plans to be elsewhere. The fact that the mere mention of James’s passing altered your plans and brought you where you could be nearest him, his family and those who share your affection for James H. Wheeler, Jr. tells even a casual on-looker all that need be known about the story of a life lived-well. But there is so much more to the story...but, I can only share with you my account of what I know, observed and experienced first hand.

Let us begin with the obvious James we all know so well. No matter his stature, James was 10 ft tall in the Board Room or anywhere else where he was in “business mode”. Anyone who has ever worked with him, around him or near him has learned quickly that there is no opposing him. He was one of the toughest negotiators I have ever known and I learned a great deal from him as we worked to make Texas Lions Camp’s facility something better than yesterday for tomorrow’s children.

An architect’s job begins and ends with the client…someone other than yourself. While most equate the profession of architecture with the ability to design and be creative, those who design without input from others are simply known as artists. The glaring difference between the two professions, is the client and the ability to give everything that you are and have for the benefit of someone other than yourself.

James has given thousands of hours for the benefit of others, so much so, that each year for TLC’s 990 tax return, I would have to solicit from James to calculate and place a value on his professional services. But he also did that here, for his church and other groups. In fact, at the age of 96, he was one of the convention chairman and producers of the Lions State Convention that will be held at the convention center here in Abilene in two weeks.

I have been eye-witness to over 1,500 children with disabilities and now families, who have the chance to visit and reside in a safe-place in order to explore their value as persons. That miracle is a result of thousands of people coming together to provide but at its foundation are those who have designed, shepherded and stewarded the resources. You can’t refer to the later without seeing James’s heart and handiwork.

It was on a Thursday in September of 2020 when I was last here to celebrate the life of Reba Wheeler. I marveled then and I still marvel today, how James demonstrated his love for Reba. In later life, I would call and ask what he was doing and the answer was, “I’m making dinner for Reba” or after she moved to assisted-living, when I would call he would say, “I am going over to layout her clothes so the staff can help her get dressed tomorrow.”

Philippians 2:4
Do not merely lookout for your own interests, but also for the interest of others. James had a deep understanding of what it meant to look out for the interests of others. And, It was not because it was what his profession trained him to do, but because he chose a profession that would allow him to express what was already inside him, full-time.

One of the strongest shapes in the natural is the triangle. We see it expressed in the spiritual realm in the Trinity as God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Architects and Engineers incorporate the triangle into their designs both for its added structural strength and its allure.

When James would come to a meeting with me, he always carried an olive-green, hard-back briefcase. There was some kind of magic about this case, because as he would open it, out would come:

  1. Plans/blueprints
  2. Bundles of Contracts
  3. Notebooks
  4. Documentation to prove you made a promise and have now broken it
  5. Full cabinet samples
  6. Pre cast walls
  7. Foundations
  8. 3-D models
  9. Calculators
  10. Rulers, pens, protractors
  11. And an architect’s scale

Which brings us to the show-N-tell portion. Now I want to show you what an architect’s scale presents as – A TRIANGLE!!!

For those who may not know what a scale is used for, let me elaborate. The purpose of the scale is to do what its name suggests: to take a life-size object like a football stadium or this auditorium and present it on paper on a scaled-down, smaller version of itself so that an overview or the finest detail can be explored by the reader before the structure is built.

Let’s go deeper. Not only does the scale accomplish this, but it contains the capacity to choose up to a dozen different sizes or scale of the original. For instance, you might scale on paper so that 1” on the paper equal 1’ of the original or 500’.

To the casual on-looker, there are 3 sides, so there must be 3 demarkations but as you will note, on each side, there is a top and a bottom, but there is also a different scale from left to right and right to left so that each side, might represent four different scales of size.

I will forever equate the architect’s scale with James as there is so much more than meets the eye and contained in what might look like an otherwise compact presentation there exists a treasure trove of information and helpful tools to meet multiple needs at one time.

James knew how to build things correctly so they would solve problems, meet needs, be safe and last and he demanded that it be so. James also knew and walked with God. His confidence was in and sprang from his Lord. Jesus said in Luke 6:47-48

Luke 6:48 Those who come to me and hear my words and then do them are like the wise man who digs deep down to bedrock and builds his house upon the rock. And When the storms of life come against it, and the floods rise, the house will stand.

James built his life and project upon a solid foundation.

On behalf of the family, I want to thank you for coming today. Mickey/Linda, Paula, David & family he spoke about you often to me and your achievements in life and beamed with all the pride, passion and affection a father feels.

In the later years, James and I rarely parted company when James did not say to me, “I love ya.” Not only was it true that our time and trials had deepened our connection, but life has a way of contrasting the temporal vs eternal things that truly matter. For the remainder of my days, I will miss James’s confidence, his wisdom, his wit, his dry knowing and matter-of-fact outlook on a given situation, but mostly I will just miss my friend.

It is because I knew him I can say with confidence that as he leaves us and we part for a short-time, what James would say to each of you is, “I love ya!”

Respectfully yours,

Stephen S. Mabry
President & CEO
Texas Lions Camp, Inc.


Stephen is President and CEO of Texas Lions Camp, Inc. and recently celebrated 30 years of service to this 70 year-old, 501(c)(3) charitable, organization in August of 2019. TLC, Inc. has a large Board of Directors consisting of 94 voting members and over 300 volunteer members that serve on one of 10 standing committees. As a corporation, TLC has more than 200 full-time and seasonal employees (who are organized into 7 departments) and over 2,000 volunteers per year that are responsible for creating an atmosphere of success for more than 1,500 children with physical disabilities per summer. Stephen has been a Certified Association Executive with the American Society of Association Executives, and a past Certified Fund-Raising Executive with the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Stephen is a father of three and resides on TLC’s Kerrville campus together with his wife Shawn, who as luck would have it, is a professional editor.
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