Theodore Stanley “Ted” Richardson Wheeler, 91, of Iowa City, Iowa passed away peacefully in his sleep on November 17, 2022 after 91 fulfilling years.
Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on January 30, 1931 to William Archie and Grace Marion (Richardson) Wheeler, Theodore excelled in athletics at a young age. He was raised in LaFayette, Georgia before moving to Illinois, where he was a track and cross-country star at Evanston Township High School. Upon graduating in 1950, Ted continued his running career at the University of Iowa, where he was an All-American and All-Big Ten runner. As a student-athlete, Ted competed for the Hawkeyes and the University of Chicago Track Club. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Iowa in 1957.
Ted’s athletic prowess led him to the world stage as he became the first black American to run the 1,500 meters in the history of the Olympics at the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia. Sharing knowledge and working with others was always a passion for Ted; his transition to coaching was a logical choice. He served as the University of Iowa head track coach from 1978 to 1997, and cross-county coach from 1979 to 1987. Aside from running techniques and strategy, Ted taught his athletes useful lessons that would serve them well long after respective track careers ended.
Ted, a true Hawkeye legend as an athlete and coach, earned induction into the Black American Hall of Fame, The University of Iowa Athletic Hall of Fame, and the Drake Relays Hall of Fame. Ted was also an active member of the I-Club, an organization dedicated to supporting student-athletes, and spent many years sponsoring scholarships for African American students at Iowa.
Although athletics were always a major part of Ted’s life, family was just as important. As a loving father to three children, Ted enjoyed nothing more than being a parent. He was also a loving brother, father, and grandfather. Ted was blessed to spend 20 glorious years with his best friend and significant other, Lena Hoffmeier.
Ted is survived by his children, Theodore Wheeler II of St. Louis, MO, James Wheeler of Port St. Lucie, FL, and Mary Frances Wheeler of Minneapolis, MN; three grandchildren James Wheeler, Harrison Baker and Wheeler Baker; three siblings, Bud (Sharon) Wheeler of Winnetka, IL, Hilde (Willie) Carter, Joyce (Steven) Dinkins of Grand Junction, MI; his significant other, Lena Hoffmeier of Iowa City, IA; and many extended family members.
Ted was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers William “Bill” and James “Jim” and a sister Blue McLeary.
Visitation will be Friday, December 2, 2022 at 4:00 to 7:00 PM at Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service, 605 Kirkwood Avenue, Iowa City. A celebration of Ted’s life with a sharing of memories will be held Saturday, December 3, 2022 at 11:00 AM at Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service with visitation from 10:00 to 11:00 AM. Burial will follow at Oakland Cemetery. Anyone is welcome to pay their respects.
Ted’s family will be hosting a celebration of life this summer with details to come.
His family would like to thank Iowa City Hospice and Legacy Gardens for their live and care given to Ted.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in memory of Ted may be made payable to: Ted Wheeler Scholarship Fund and can be sent to The family of Ted Wheeler, 605 Kirkwood Avenue, Iowa City 52240