Viola Wheeler loved to laugh, tell stories, play games, and dance. She thoroughly enjoyed clever verbal exchanges and frequently pulled family and friends into her banter resulting in trying to best each other with double entendres, ending with lots of laughter. She told stories that enraptured her audience, leaving no detail unstated…and many times family would tell her to just give them the “Reader’s Digest” version.  Difficult for an intrepid storyteller. She loved to dance, starting at a young age with ballet, dancing every opportunity she could and went to her first disco in 1979. In later years, dancing while seated became her norm. Bouncing her shoulders, swaying along to the music, and tapping her toes with eyes sparkling, she endeared all in her company.

Music was a passion for Vi. She was an accomplished pianist and gave lessons in her early years. She supported different musical organizations and received a lifetime recognition award from Grapes for Humanity Global Foundation for her charitable work in establishing music schools in five different countries. She also felt strongly about education and the work done by The FAWCO Foundation. She supported this and numerous other foundations and mentorships through the years. Rarely did she allow her generosity to be published, rather, insisting on anonymity in her giving. Vi practiced that attitude throughout all aspects of her life.

Born Viola Godfrey Reich on March 21, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois, Vi was orphaned by age 3, and was raised by a loving aunt and uncle. A fateful summer trip at age 14, to visit cousins in Oak Creek, moved her to Colorado through her university years at Colorado State College in Greeley. Her intrepid spirit propelled her to get her pilot’s license during this time. As she told it, she wanted to impress a certain young man, Warren “Pete” Wheeler.

She graduated with a teaching and business degree in 1940, marrying Pete in 1941. A life moving with the military followed as he had joined the service. They settled in Colorado Springs in 1965. Vi and Pete were actively involved in travel, several bridge, and other local groups. They founded the Candlelighters Bridge Club and the Colorado Springs Newcomers bridge group. Vi put her business degree to work being hired by Colorado Interstate Gas Company in 1966. She worked through the ranks to position of Supervisor in charge of 130 personnel in the Word Processing Division and founded a mentoring program for newly hired women entering the work force.  She retired after 26 ½ wonderful years of service. Upon retirement she stated, “she went to work because she didn’t want Pete to find out she couldn’t make lunch!” As her friends and co-workers said, she had the power of a smile and a zest for life.

Viola was predeceased by her husband of 66 years, Dr. Warren N. Wheeler (Ret. Lieutenant Colonel); daughter, Barbara J. Wheeler; brother, Louis G. Reich; as well as her partner of two years, William G. Lees. 

She is survived by her daughters: Patricia V. Onderdonk, Dr. Connie C. Wheeler, Karmen D. Wheeler, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Suzanne R. Wheeler and spouse, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Kenneth M. Nesbitt, and Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Teresa J. Wheeler and spouse, Bradley M. Baker.

Her grandchildren and great grandchildren: Shannen J. VanderDonck and spouse, David B. Dacko, Chief Petty Officer (Ret.) James T. VanderDonck and spouse, Nina T Yu, Alena R. Nesbitt and spouse Andrea Grammatico, Captain Loren M. Nesbitt, 1st Lieutenant Trevor A. Baker, Corporal Landon W. Baker, Peyton B. Dacko, and Erik N. Grammatico.

Funeral services will be held from 2-3 p.m. on September 5, 2023, at the Shrine of Remembrance “America the Beautiful” Chapel of Roses. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service in the chapel. A reception will follow from 4-6 p.m. at the Garden of the Gods Resort, 3320 Mesa Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80904. Graveside service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, September 6, 2023, at Fort Logan National Cemetery, 3698 South Sheridan Boulevard, Denver, Colorado, 80235.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Bristol Hospice Colorado Springs, 7660 Goddard Street, Suite 100, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920; or Project COPE Colorado Springs Utilities at, click “GIVE HOPE” or Colorado Springs Utilities Foundation, P.O. Box 2278, Colorado Springs, CO 80901-2278.

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This Obituary Has 3 Condolences

  1. Vi was like my second Mom at CIG. She was always my champion and a constant cheerleader for my abilities and achievements. When I was promoted to another department it was a sad day for me but I knew Vi was always there for me cheering me on. She was one of the most supportive and kind people I have ever known. Rest in peace dear Vi. Thank you for all the great memories!♥️♥️♥️🌹🌹🌹

  2. Vi had an innate kindness and infectious smile that endeared her to everyone around her. Her picture brought back memories with a smile on my face. I remember Vi as more than just a supervisor at CIG; she was a patient teacher and her mentorship were the cornerstones upon which I built my career. Rest in peace, Vi. Your guidance and kindness will forever remain in my heart.

  3. Mama was my role model in life. Mama told me that I was her 7th daughter. She had the most infectious laugh and was alway there for you when you needed a hug or advice. I can’t imagine that I can’t make a phone call to her! I know she is up there in heaven guiding all of us to be good citizens but most of all to enjoy each moment of life! My whole family will miss her dearly. Rest In Peace, my friend. Love, Arlene (and Michael)

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