Former Martin area residents, Harold and Connie Wheeler died tragically in a car wreck in Lincoln, Neb., on the way to their 50th Wedding Anniversary reception.
Harold, 76, was driving and it is believed he had a heart attack or other medical emergency and his car drifted into the path of another vehicle.
They lived near Tamora, about 30 miles west of Lincoln.
They had just eaten lunch with relatives, including Dorothy Wheeler of Martin, Harold’s aunt, and Ron Wheeler of Martin, Harold’s cousin.
Harold’s parents ranched east of Harrington, east of Martin.
Harold’s brother, Don, said they just left lunch and said we’ll see you in a bit at the party. They were going to a friend’s house to change clothes to get ready for the anniversary party.
A doctor and a nurse at the accident site were confident Harold suffered a catastrophic medical event.
According to family members, the Wheelers grew up on ranches and never ventured far from their rural roots and always had horses.
Connie was a champion rodeo barrel racer as a teenager, but gave up the sport at 16 after breaking her neck at a branding.
Connie’s family ranched near Thedford, Neb.
Harold attended a one room country school and graduated from Bennett County High School in Martin and enlisted in the Navy. After his discharge, he graduated from General Beadle State College (now Dakota State) in Madison and started a teaching career in White River.
Connie graduated from Gordon High School and was in Valentine working when she met Harold and they married Nov. 21, 1962.
Harold taught in Valentine and Ainsworth until going to work for what is now the Nebraska Health and Human Services Dept. in Omaha in the early 1970s. He eventually transferred to the Lincoln headquarters where he was a unit manager for 18 years before retiring about a decade ago.
Harold was an AARP officer and active in Toastmasters International clubs.