Roger E. Wheeler, a retired intelligence and management specialist for military and space programs and a prominent Alexandria civic leader, died of cancer June 5 at the Fountains at Washington House in Alexandria. He was 88.
His 29 years of civilian federal service included work at the Army Security Agency, Air Force Directorate of Targets, Air Force Intelligence Center, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A World War II veteran, he also became a colonel during 32 years as an active Army Reserve officer, specializing in intelligence.
In the West End of Alexandria, where he lived for 60 years, he joined his neighbors, the late Mayor Charles E. Beatley and former Vice Mayor Mel Bergheim, and other local civic association members to protect single-family neighborhoods from more intensive development. He was the founding president of the Strawberry Hill Association and of the Alexandria Federation of Civic Associations, which he helped found in 1964. He ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Alexandria City Council in 1979.
Roger Eugene Wheeler was born in 1920 in Auglaizne county, Ohio. He majored in education at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, earned a master’s degree in sociology at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and took advanced courses in political science at American University. He also graduated from the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Ford Leavenworth, Kans., and taught at Army and naval intelligence schools.
During the World War II, his first billet as a newly commissioned officer was with the Army unit assigned to the air defense of Washington. His active duty service included 18 months in the European Theatre as a company commander. From 1948 to 1980, he was a member of the active Army Reserve, the last six years as an intelligence officer in the 352nd Civil Affairs Unit.
At NASA, where Mr. Wheeler was a management specialist from 1962 until he retired in 1976, he helped prepare long range plans from communication and the facilities and equipment to support them. Because of his background in both communications and intelligence, he supervised installation of cryptographic linkages for NASA’s space missions.
After retiring from federal service Mr. Wheeler earned an electrician’s license, a real estate license and an instrument-rated pilot’s license.
A skilled craftsman, he built or remodeled several homes, including the one he lived in for almost 50 years. He also was a property manager for Better Homes Reality.
In addition to working with his hands, he enjoyed flying. He was an officer of Associated Pilots, Inc., a small air charter and leasing service. He also was active for many years in the Fairlington United Methodist Church in Alexandria.
This year, he and his wife, Dorothy Salisbury Wheeler, celebrated 65 years of marriage. They met at a freshman reception in college. In retirement, they established Wheeler Enterprises—he was treasurer, and she managed the gift shops they owned.
They also enjoyed traveling: They visited six continents and all 50 states together.
In addition to his wife, survivors include son, James (Marjorie), a daughter, Sandra Wheeler, all of Alexandria; a granddaughter, Michelle Wheeler Muller (Eric), and a great-granddaughter, Kelsey Muller, all of Canton, Ga.; and a brother, Howard Wheeler (Dorothy), of Norwalk, Ohio.