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1930 Ira 2022

Ira M. Wheatley

July 12, 1930 — March 12, 2022

Ira M. Wheatley passed away at the age of 91 on Saturday, March 12, 2022 at Church of God Home, Carlisle, PA.
Ira was born in the middle of the Great Depression on July 12, 1930 in Dover, DE to the late Gertrude Mitchell and Melvin E. Wheatley. His family moved three times during his childhood, finally landing in the tiny coastal town of Crisfield, MD, famous for its Maryland blue crab. Teased as "the preacher's kid," Ira was determined to prove his mettle. He learned to drive at age 12, and worked summers hauling hundreds of watermelons into the boats making the overnight trip to Baltimore. He loved dancing, and was a renowned jitterbugger, despite his father's disapproval. An accomplished student and athlete, Ira graduated from Crisfield High School where he served as class secretary, treasurer, and president, performed in school plays, edited the school yearbook and newspaper, played basketball, baseball, and soccer and was the class valedictorian.
Financially, college was a challenge. Ira was accepted to Duke University, but the cost made it prohibitive. Then his older brother Melvin stepped in; helping him get a 2-year scholarship to the College of the Pacific in far-away Stockton, CA, where Melvin lived with his family. Strapped for money, Ira took the 3-day train trip across the country carrying a shoebox full of hard-boiled eggs and one suitcase; his ill-fitting suit was the only one he owned. He began his studies at Stockton Community College while living with Melvin and his wife Lucile; helping to babysit their three sons. Two years later, in his first semester at College of the Pacific, he met Alice Eiselen -- the only female in his Econ class. The professor amusedly announced that Alice had earned the top score on their first test. Ira was smitten. They began dating and were soon engaged. Ira excelled academically and socially -- he graduated first in his class and was voted 'Outstanding Senior Man.' Ira and Alice graduated in May, got married in June, and soon after, started a family.
After a short stint as a social worker in New York City, Ira decided to follow in his father's footsteps and earned his Master of Divinity from Drew University. He served as a Methodist minister in Sparta and Butzville, NJ, and as chaplain of Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT. But intellectually, he was restless. Drawn to understand other philosophical traditions, he pored over Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim texts. He felt a strong calling, and with four children at home, made the risky decision to leave the ministry. Three years later, he earned his Ph.D. in Comparative Religions at the University of Iowa.
After applying for more than 100 teaching positions around the country, Ira finally received two offers, and accepted a position at Eastern Michigan University. There, he served as an Associate Professor of world religions and was the long-time Chair of the History and Philosophy Department. He also served as the acting Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and later, the acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Ira was known for his hard work and integrity. He was denied the permanent appointment as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences due to his fierce advocacy for faculty. In response, a large contingent of EMU faculty signed a petition and marched to protest that decision to deny him the position of Dean.
Ira loved hiking, classical music, and singing in choirs; he was known for his beautiful tenor voice. He relished hard physical work, spending endless hours in the hot sun happily landscaping and tending the large new gardens he and Alice planted in each of their homes. A self-taught carpenter, he constructed brand new bedrooms in two of those homes. While living in North Carolina, he volunteered many hours cleaning up the hiking trails he loved. His entire family enjoyed his culinary skills, especially his cheese bread, Christmas cookies and homemade ice cream.
One of his greatest joys was spending time with his children: Krista Wheatley-Heckman ( and husband Bill) of Columbia, MD, Kevin Wheatley of Dayton, OH, Kennedy Wheatley of Los Angeles, CA, and Karl Wheatley (and wife Amy) of Lakewood, OH. He also adored his six grandchildren, Annika Rogers (and husband Chad), Jeff Wheatley-Heckman (and fiancee Molly Borkowski) Shobha Wheatley-Heckman, David and Katherine Wheatley, and Elena Wheatley, and one great-grandchild Cameron Rogers. Throughout his life, he was very close to his sister, Mary Virginia Damonte.
Ira was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 64 years, Alice E. Wheatley, and by siblings Ruth Smith, Melvin Wheatley, and Gertrude Jorgenson.
A Celebration of Ira’s remarkable life will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, 2022 at Hoffman Funeral Home & Crematory, 2020 W. Trindle Road, Carlisle, PA. Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, 2595 Interstate Drive, Suite 100, Harrisburg, PA 17110.
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Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, July 23, 2022

Starts at 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

Hoffman Funeral Home & Crematory

2020 West Trindle Road, Carlisle, PA 17013


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