Ferrel Dale Wheeler passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones on July 19, 2021, at the Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock. He was 90.
Ferrel was born on April 3, 1931, to Horace and Beulah Wheeler on their Garza County ranch and farm east of Southland. Ferrel and his three siblings, Wilma, Valton, and Stanley, grew up in the rugged hills and canyons below the Caprock Escarpment. There, he acquired tenacity at a young age, working cattle, hoeing, plowing with teams of mules, and learning how to stay in the saddle on high-spirited horses. He graduated from high school in Southland in 1948 and earned an animal husbandry degree from Texas Tech University in 1952.
Ferrel and his future wife, the former Laura Jo Starnes, began dating while they were both students at Texas Tech. The couple exchanged wedding vows on January 14, 1955, and they were blessed with four children, Amanda, Jenny, Nathan, and Camille, whom they raised on the family farm near Southland. Ferrel grew cotton, grain sorghum, and other crops for more than six and a half decades, and he remained actively involved in ranching for many years, including as a manager of the Wheeler family estate. In 2019, Ferrel and Laura Jo moved from Southland to Lubbock.
A man of deep Christian faith, humility, and wisdom, Ferrel attended the First United Methodist Church of Slaton for nearly six decades. He taught a junior high Sunday school class, and he lent his beautiful voice to the church choir, often performing gospel songs in a quartet and singing in Christmas cantatas.
Ferrel was a strong advocate for agricultural water issues and served for nearly a quarter century as board president of the Garza County Underground Water Conservation District, beginning with its inception in 1996. His vast knowledge of the South Plains aquifer systems proved instrumental in the creation of a water management plan for Garza County, and in 2020 he was recognized by the district for his myriad contributions to the region.
Greatly respected by his peers, Ferrel was presented with the 2004 Outstanding Conservation Farmer award from the Garza Soil and Water Conservation District. In 1991, he was honored by the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, receiving the Administrator’s Award for Service to Agriculture for his work at the county level.
Ferrel was further known for his keen intellect and curiosity. He was a voracious reader of military history books and counted Elmer Kelton, O. Henry, and Arthur Conan Doyle among his favorite authors. He also loved crossword puzzles and maps, and he earned a reputation for his mechanical ability to fix just about anything, from clocks to farm equipment. Admired for his dependability, he responded quickly when anyone asked for his help, and he delighted in striking up conversations with others.
A devoted husband, father, and grandfather, Ferrel encouraged and supported his children’s scholastic, athletic, and musical endeavors, and he swelled with pride when discussing his grandchildren’s achievements in academics and sports. Over the course of their marriage, Ferrel and Laura Jo shared their love of horses, books, music, and travel. They especially treasured being in the company of loved ones and in seeing their family grow to include grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Ferrel was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers, Valton Wheeler and Stanley Wheeler.
He leaves to cherish his memory his wife of 66 years, Laura Jo Wheeler of Lubbock; his children, Amanda Teachnor of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, Jenny Wheeler Dickerson and her husband, Nathan, of Carrollton, Nathan Wheeler and his wife, Carol, of Wilson, and Camille Wheeler of Austin; his sister, Wilma Hill of Lubbock; his grandchildren, Daniel Zachary Teachnor and his wife, Melissa, Amber Danielle Drew and her husband, Kyle, Rachel Dickerson Darwin and her husband, Logan, Josh Dickerson and his wife, Brianne, Michael Dickerson and his wife, Dana, Aaron Matthew Dickerson and his wife, Rita, Marianne White and her husband, Riley, Jonathan Wheeler and his wife, Brooke, Kyle Wheeler and his wife, Courtney, Benjamin Wheeler and his wife, Reece, Nancie Wheeler, and Daniel Wheeler; his great-grandchildren, Blaine, Isaiah, Naomi, Caleb, Emily, Autumn, Benaiah, Maximus, Ezekiel, Elizabeth, Luke, Remy, Caden, Madelyn, Lainey, and Paige; and his many other relatives and friends.
The funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 31 at First United Methodist Church of Slaton, followed by a graveside service at Slaton Englewood Cemetery. Arrangements by Englunds Funeral Service & Chapel. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to First United Methodist Church of Slaton, P.O. Box 250, Slaton, Texas, 79364-0250. Per COVID-19 precautions, individuals attending the church memorial service are required to wear face masks.