Gary Charles Wheatley

[ Age 49 ] Builder restored houses, fixed homes for the needy.

May 28, 2007|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,Sun reporter

Gary Charles Wheatley, a builder and remodeler who enjoyed restoring historic homes, died of a heart attack May 21 while scuba diving off the Florida Keys with two friends. He was 49.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Wheatley grew up in Towson. He graduated in 1976 from Loch Raven Senior High School, where he met Kathy Lynn DiMartino. She was a quiet, bookish girl. He was handsome, with dark hair and a penchant for filling silence with quick jokes. They fell in love at 17, married four years later and eventually settled in Monkton.

Mrs. Wheatley said her husband had just been boasting about the clean bill of health he had gotten this spring from his doctor. Mr. Wheatley was an avid sportsman and traveler who went on scuba diving trips with friends at least a couple of times a year.

"He was in great shape. He went around bragging to everyone that his physical went so well," said his brother-in-law Andy DiMartino.

The family said they would miss Mr. Wheatley's sense of humor.

"Wherever he went, people laughed," said his brother-in-law.

Shortly after graduating from high school, Mr. Wheatley became a certified graduate remodeler, starting his first business in 1985. He and his wife worked together. He was in sales and she was in charge of accounting.

Sometimes, seemingly "out of nowhere," Mrs. Wheatley said, her husband would tell her that she should keep the business going if anything should ever happen to him.

"The work meant a lot to him," she said. "So many people asked me, `How do you work with your spouse all day?' But now, I just can't imagine not working with him."

He had a particular weakness for restoring historic homes, a love that became apparent in 2002, when he purchased the Price-Akehurst House in Monkton. He painstakingly uncovered the log cabin structure underneath the 1876 home, restoring it to its original grandeur. The historic home now serves as the headquarters for Wheatley Associates. His preservation and remodeling work on the building won him awards from the Baltimore County Historic Trust.

Mr. Wheatley's charity work also involved restoration. Volunteer efforts through the Rotary Club of Towsontown took him into declining neighborhoods on the eastern fringe of Baltimore. He helped refurbish kitchens and bathrooms, outfitting run-down homes with conveniences for families with elderly or disabled residents. His work earned him the Rotary Club's Paul Harris Award for "Service Above Others" and Rotarian of the Year recognition in 2000.

Mr. Wheatley liked to fish and hunt. He enjoyed spending weekends at the family's house on Lake Wallenpaupack in Pennsylvania and regularly scheduled dinners with his 22-year-old daughter, Margaret Anne Wheatley of Monkton.

"They fed on each other's energy," Kathy Wheatley said.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Henry W. Jenkins & Sons in Monkton.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Wheatley is survived by his parents, James Burke and Margaret Wheatley of Ocean Pines; and two brothers, Bruce Howard Wheatley of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Robert Walton Wheatley of Ellicott City.

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