Thomas ("Tom") Wheelan beloved husband, father, brother, brother-in-law, grandfather, uncle, colleague and friend died on Sunday, September 15, 2013. Tom was the most good hearted and amazing man and will be missed by all who knew him.
"What a guy!" his wife Joyce would comment when referring to Tom, and of course she was right as she was the one that knew him best. It was nearly impossible not to be impressed with Tom whether you had recently met him for the first time or you had known him since his elementary school days in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on March 4, 1938, to Clarence and Mae Wheelan, Tom was fiercely proud of his Irish and Iowa roots. A product of Cedar Rapids Catholic schools, Tom's Catholic faith also defined a large part of who he was. His days at Immaculate Conception High School were also important for another critical aspect of his life. It is during this time that he first met Joyce, his future wife to whom he would be married for nearly fifty-three years. Tom and Joyce were the most adorable, loving, and affectionate couple. They both knew that they were so lucky to have each other.
After high school Tom attended Iowa State University and was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. The fun and friendships that he had there proved more powerful than the lure of the engineering classes and ultimately he transferred and graduated from the University of Iowa in 1962 with a degree in Civil Engineering. Tom went on to earn his Professional Engineering certification and his career in the concrete industry started soon after. Tom earned his Masters in Business Administration from Georgia State University in 1977 by attending night classes while raising five children.
Starting in the early 1970s Tom began to specialize in the concrete pipe industry and it is within that industry that Tom has influenced many careers and lives. Professionally, Tom and concrete pipe are inextricably linked. A quick internet search of either Tom or concrete pipe always leads to references to the other. He worked his way up at Gifford-Hill (later Hanson) from an engineer to an executive of the Southwest Region. His accomplishments extended far beyond his own company as he was an active member of the American Concrete Pipe Association, serving as Chairman in 2007. Through the years, Tom served as an engineer, manager, and most importantly a mentor to many in the industry. Tom was not the type to raise his voice to make a point, yet he would rather quietly suggest what he thought was right and patiently wait for others to come to the same conclusion. Tom would often give his signature "over the glasses" look. He used this technique at home and in the office with equal rates of success.
Tom was so much more than just a man of industry; he loved reading and traveling. He and Joyce traveled extensively including trips to Italy, France, Cuba, and many more dream destinations. When they traveled they did not just take in the tourist attractions but they loved to experience a place like the locals do. No matter where Tom went, he always commented that the people he met were so friendly. There is no doubt that they were just reciprocating the sincere, eager-to-learn attitude that was Tom's personality.
As an avid reader, Tom always had a book or two that he was reading. His favorite type of books were biographies and stories about history. Tom put all of the knowledge that he collected through his reading to good use as he religiously worked the crossword puzzle in the paper each day…in pen. He had a deep knowledge of a variety of topics including politics and current events and would enjoy discussing any of them if they were of interest to his listener.
The one thing that Tom loved more than his work or his hobbies was his family. Tom was the "rock" not only for his family but his extended family as well. His genuine optimism and faith in his children and grandchildren made them believe that they can achieve anything they wanted and he would help them come up with a game plan of how to get there. He was quite the "techie" and he loved that he and his grandkids texted each other on a regular basis. They all knew they had the coolest grandpa. Tom absolutely loved when he was around all of his family and he had a great desire to keep traditions alive. Two sacred family traditions were Thanksgiving at the Wheelan's and meeting at Gulf Shores over the Fourth of July. Only Grandpa Tom could convince ten bed-headed teenagers to meet him down at the beach at seven o'clock in the morning, while on vacation, to walk to the pier and back. Tom always had a story to share and he usually shared it around the kitchen table. The table was the center and heart and soul of the Wheelan family. It is where good food was eaten, stories were told, and card games were played.
Diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis several years ago, Tom did not let this slow him down. He continued to work and travel until early this year. Tom a received a lung transplant in June. The family would like to thank the Houston Methodist Pulmonary Transplant team for their dedicated care and service to Tom.
For those that would like to remember Tom with his family and friends, a visitation will be held at 10:00 am on Friday, September 20 at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church, 11507 Huffmeister Road, Houston 77065 followed by a funeral mass at 11:00 am.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Mae Wheelan; brothers, Bob and Harry Wheelan, and sister, Susan Jackson. He is survived by his wife Joyce; sister, Mary Francis Cahalan; children Martin Wheelan, Michael Wheelan (wife Dolly), Sally Walker (husband Eddie), Amy Bielek (husband Tim) and Jennifer Toups (husband David). Tom had 12 grandchildren: Thomas, Hilary and Suzy Wheelan; Will and Clint Walker; Kacey and Kevin Bielek; and Kelly, Chris, Jack, Patrick and George Toups.