Obituary: Mary Pauline Naftel Wheeler

Legacy Claremonter, active volunteer, loving mother and wife

“Mary Pauline Naftel Wheeler, called by the voice of Jesus, ascended peacefully to heaven on November 21, 2019, surrounded by her loving family,” the family shared.

Born to Paul and Ida Mae Naftel on July 26, 1927, in Pomona California; her husband and life partner of almost 60 years, Roger S. Wheeler, passed away in 2008.

Mary attended local Claremont schools, where she and future husband, Roger, were grade school classmates, graduating from Claremont High School in 1945. She attended the University of Oregon for one year, before returning to Scripps College, and then graduating from La Verne College (now University of La Verne) with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1949. She and Mr. Wheeler wed on August 28, 1948, while students at the local colleges.

Mrs. Wheeler taught elementary school for several years before starting a family—the couple first welcomed three sons, Paul in 1953, Nelson in 1955 and Mark in 1956; and finally, a daughter, Martha in 1961.

Mrs. Wheeler was active throughout her life in local community affairs, including The Claremont Presbyterian Church, the Assistance League of Pomona Valley, the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of the USA, Recording for the Blind and in her later years as a board member of the Westminster Gardens Retirement Community in Duarte. She loved to play bridge, socialize with friends, spend time at the family beach cottage, and travel the world. Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler traveled to nearly 50 countries, which they thoroughly enjoyed.  

She put her family first, and is one of the last members of the founding families of the Claremont citrus industry. Her grandfather entered the business in 1888 and her father set out his first grove in 1919. She was very proud of her heritage.

She was an only child and was named for her father, Paul. They adored each other and in adulthood Mary considered her father to be her best friend. She inherited her father’s mechanical aptitude and was known to be able to fix anything from a broken grove sprinkler to a broken clothes dryer to a teenage child’s broken heart.

Mrs. Wheeler is survived by her four children and their spouses: Paul (Maureen), Nelson (Ellen), Mark (Pam), and Martha Wheeler Anderson (Todd); and by 10 grandchildren: Megan; Whitney Johnson (Michael); Lucas (Donna); Chelsea Grady (Patrick); Paige Brownlie (Will); Clayton (Morgan); Kip Bowman; Jack Bowman; Preston; and Mindy; and seven great-grandchildren: Rachel; Ethan Johnson; Austin Johnson; Roger; Sequoia Grady: Vivian Brownlie and Brooks. She will be missed by all who had the pleasure of making her acquaintance.

The family wishes to extend their sincere gratitude to VNA Hospice and to their mother’s loving caregivers.

A celebration of life and luncheon reception will be held on Friday, December 6 at 11 a.m. at The Claremont Presbyterian Church, 1111 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont.

In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Wheeler suggested donations be made to The Mt. San Antonio Gardens Scholarship Fund, 900 E. Harrison, Pomona, CA 91767; The Claremont Presbyterian Church, 1111 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont, CA 91711; or The American Red Cross, Claremont Chapter, 2065 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Claremont, CA 91711.


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