Pine Nuts: I wish I could have known him |

Pine Nuts: I wish I could have known him

This past Memorial Day weekend, Col. Steve Price and his wife Clair invited the entire village out to Burnt Cedar Point to honor a hometown hero and place a plaque in his memory.

Bob Wheeler parachuted into enemy territory to rescue no fewer than 28 downed pilots, be it treetops, cliffs, or high seas, it didn’t matter to Bob, he would drop into the gates of hell to pull a comrade out of, yes, that place too.

I was asked to say a few words, and in full disclosure, it took me three weeks to prepare this impromptu tribute.

“I join you here today on this Memorial Weekend to honor our fallen heroes. Personally, I never had the honor nor the pleasure of knowing Bob Wheeler … but I have friends in heaven that correspond on a regular basis and they tell me when Bob Wheeler passed through the Pearly Gates, St. Peter held up the line long enough to take a selfie with him.

“I’ve been told there are three staging areas in heaven for heroes, where they can commune before deciding where to settle down in paradise. The largest staging area, about the size of the United States, is for heroes like me who never had a chance to demonstrate their heroism. Then there is a staging area about the size of Nevada for those who did demonstrate their heroism and courage. And finally, there is one small room full of cigar smoke where those very few are gathered who answered the call to courage time, after time, after time.

“I’ve been told, when Bob Wheeler passed through the Pearly Gates, St. Peter sent him to that small smoke filled room where he was greeted by Joan of Arc, (yes, she smokes cigars) Mahatma Grande, and Martin Luther King, Jr. with a glass of Maker’s Mark and a hand of Texas Hold’em, before deciding where exactly he might like to settle down in God’s Green Acre. And I’ve been told that Bob decided to settle down on a lake, a big beautiful blue lake … Yes, there is a lake in heaven, a lake so high up it is in the air that angels breathe, a lake that is truly a lake of the sky, and that’s where I’ve been told Bob Wheeler has chosen to settle down, and is resting comfortably this Memorial weekend, in eternal peace.”

Then touching words from members of Bob’s family had everybody grabbing for their handkerchiefs.

To highpoint the Bob Wheeler tribute, Sheila Leijon sang, “Wind Beneath My Wings,” that was especially moving, as she was crying on the inside. With Sheila’s song, and a flight of birds that soared overhead to accentuate her last note, Burnt Cedar Point became known in the hearts and minds of those present as Wheeler Point.

“Did you ever know that you’re my hero,

And everything I would like to be?

I can fly higher than an eagle,

For you are the wind beneath my wings.”

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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