Funeral director heading north
He might be heading into retirement, but Stuart Wheeler is certain the funeral industry will still require his services.
The long-time funeral director and owner of Wheeler’s Guardian Funeral Home was acknowledged last week for more than 20 years in Porirua and 45 years in the industry.
Porirua mayor Nick Leggett, in giving Wheeler a mayoral recognition award, said Wheeler was an embedded member of the community and would be missed.
‘‘ The people of Porirua, especially those in the Pacific community, felt an affinity with you because of your sense of humour and the care that you gave their families in times of grief and loss,’’ Leggett said.
Wheeler, who flirted with a career in medicine before going into the funeral industry, said he had overseen more than 6800 funerals.
He was an embalmer who helped police identify victims of the Mt Erebus disaster in 1979, receiving the New Zealand Special Service Medal in 2007 for his efforts.
Wheeler also oversaw the funeral of former GovernorGeneral Sir David Beattie in 2001.
In 2012, he commissioned a $20,000 life-sized granite statue at Whenua Tapu Cemetery to honour members of the armed forces. It was unveiled on Armistice Day that year.
Retirement wouldn’t be about sitting back and relaxing, Wheeler said. He and wife Maree would be retiring to Hawke’s Bay to look after land they had bought, which included an orchard.
He said that because the funeral industry was small, he was sure of being shoulder-tapped to fill in or consult.
‘‘When the guys in Napier heard I was coming up that way, I was asked to cover as a locum. So I may be just as busy as I am now.’’
He said he was sad to be bidding farewell to the unique and colourful environment of Porirua.
‘‘ I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here and I’m really struggling with leaving. The community have made Maree and me feel incredibly welcome.’’
Retiring: Stuart Wheeler with his with his mayoral recognition certificate.