Cover photo for John Wheaton's Obituary

John Wheaton

December 26, 1928 — September 29, 2020

John Wheaton


Age 91

John Southworth Wheaton passed away peacefully on September 29, 2020 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho after “living a wonderful life that he could not have imagined”.  John often spoke to his children and grandchildren about his life, what he learned along the way, and the things he wanted to pass on to them.  In fact, John was so interested in sharing his life experiences and his hopes for his children and grandchildren, that he compiled a notebook entitled “Joy and John: A Celebration of Life” and dedicated it to his grandchildren.  While it may sound like a memorial tribute or an obituary, it wasn’t.  However, being the organized, caring and thorough person that he was, John actually did write his own obituary for his heirs to use as a resource when he should pass away.  This is what John had to say:

“I was born on the day after Christmas in 1928, the fourth child of Ruth and Ezra Wheaton.  I spent my early life in Sparrow’s Point, Maryland.  It was an outstanding place and time to grow up with a loving family.  Unfortunately, my father died at an early age when I was only 13.  My father left a legacy of an outstanding career and being a good man, a good husband, and a good father.  My mother assumed the role of leading the family and giving love and support to her children for the next 37 years.

After my father died, I knew I had to get a part-time job and get good grades at school if I wanted to go to college.  I managed to get one of the few 4-year scholastic scholarships at Stanford University.  When I graduated from Stanford magna cum laude, I was fortunate again and attended Columbia University in New York on a fellowship and received my MBA degree with honors in 1953.

The most important event in my life was when I met Joy Thuresson in 1948 at Lake Tahoe in Northern California.  We both worked in a resort dining room and spent an unbelievable summer together, and most importantly, fell in love.  We married on December 16, 1950 while I was attending Stanford.  We lived a loving life together for more than 70 years.

After I completed my MBA, it was the time of the Korean War, and I served in the Navy both on land and sea for 3 ½ years.  During this time, Joy had our first two children.  My last position in the Navy was an aide to an Admiral and also Controller of the Navy Supply Center in San Diego. Joy and I later settled in the Los Angeles area where our third child was born. I continued to serve in the Navy Reserve and retired after 17 years of service with the rank of Lieutenant.  I pursued a career as a business executive, eventually moving to the San Francisco area where I served as Executive Vice President for one of the largest companies in the country.

During my business career, I learned some important lessons that I have tried to pass on to my children and grandchildren.  First, try to engage people in a positive manner. Listen to what is important to the other person.  Second, be willing to compromise.  Search for a way where you can get 75% of what you want and the other person gets 75% of what he wants.  Make it a win-win situation.  And third, treat each person with respect.  Most wars, divorces, and failures in business occur because of a lack of respect which leads to a loss of pride which leads to failure.

Upon my retirement, Joy and I moved to Coeur d’Alene.  We agreed that our new home was heaven on earth.  We spent our time with our extended family and traveled a few months each year.  Our 3 children and their spouses have been the joy of our life and our inspiration.  They have been loving, happy, successful people who give much to making the earth a better place to live.  Then there are our 8 unbelievable grandchildren.  They all seem to have a strong work ethic, and in many ways, follow in their parents’ footsteps.  They have chosen careers where, in addition to making a good living, they can contribute to helping others who are less fortunate.  You can’t ask for anything more.”

John is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Joy, daughter Sandy (Hal) Goldberg, son Jason (Jennie) Wheaton, son Chris (Colleen) Wheaton; eight grandchildren, John (Holly) Wheaton, Julie (Jason) Joyce, Rebecca (Randal) Rosman, Daniel (Caroline) Goldberg, Josh Goldberg, and Max, Charlie and Roxy Wheaton; and five great grandchildren, Leah, Violet, Eli, Owen and Samuel.  Each of us is so grateful for the gift of having had John in our lives.  His devotion and encouragement have motivated us to follow our passions and live our lives to the fullest.  We will be reminded of him whenever we hear one of the many love songs he sang to Joy while playing his guitar, whenever we’re enjoying a large bowl of popcorn late at night, whenever we are carrying one of our grandchildren on our shoulders, whenever we are woken up from a deep sleep by a chorus of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain”, and whenever we strive to “be smart, be calm and be kind” when facing one of life’s many challenges.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to one of John’s favorite charitable organizations, Spokane HOPE School  502 E 5th Avenue Ste A  Spokane WA 99202.  A family celebration of life will be arranged for the summer of 2021.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Wheaton, please visit our flower store.


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