WILLARD H. WHEELER
TAKES HIS OWN LIFE
Willard H. Wheeler, Formerly of Hayden W. Wheeler & Co., New York, Found Dead in His Bathroom
The trade was shocked and deeply grieved to learn last Thursday of the sudden and untimely death of Willard H. Wheeler, a retired member of the firm of Hayden W. Wheeler & Co., and a watch collector of national prominence. Mr. Wheeler was found in the bathroom of his home at 439 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, N. Y., on Wednesday evening with a bullet hole in his brain and a revolver near his body. Funeral services were held for the deceased at his late home on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock and were conducted by the Rev. Wood of the Congregational Church, Brooklyn. The interment took place immediately after at Greenwood Cemetery.
Mr. Wheeler was alone in the house when his death occurred. Shortly after 6 o'clock, Mrs. Jean Wheeler, his wife, returned and found the house in darkness. While dinner was in preparation, Mrs. Wheeler's brother arrived. Mrs. Wheeler, assuming that her husband was not at home, told her brother that he would have to wait until Mr. Wheeler returned. While waiting, Mrs. Wheeler's brother went to the bathroom and there found the body of his brother-in-law. In the pocket of the dead man's coat was found a note, in which he stated that his act was caused by the belief that he was losing his mind.
Willard H. Wheeler was a native son of Brooklyn, N. Y., having first seen the light of day in that place on March 11, 1863. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Hayden W. Wheeler, and attended the Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn. He was later prepared for college at the Greylock Institute, South Williamstown, Mass., and at Dr. Gunn's School, Washington, Conn. He finally entered Amherst College and graduated with the class of 1884.
This class has always been noted for its loyalty to Amherst and also for its loyalty to each of its classmates. Since this class has graduated, the members have held annual class reunions in different parts of the country, most of these having taken place in the east. Mr. Wheeler was secretary of his class for many years and was an untiring worker in getting the members together. He spent a great deal of time keeping in personal touch with each of his classmates and in class reunions.
After his college years Mr. Wheeler entered the stove business and became a member of the firm of E. B. Colby & Co., at that time located on Water St., New York. In 1888, the firm of Wheeler, Parsons & Hays, dealers in jewelry and watches, 2 Maiden Lane, New York, and of which Mr. Wheeler's father was a member, was succeeded by Hayden W. Wheeler & Co., Lewis A. Parsons and Henry Hays, the other two partners, retiring. A few years later, the elder Mr. Wheeler took in as a partner his son, Willard. The latter continued with the firm until 1919, when the business was sold, Mr. Wheeler retiring at that time.
Mr. Wheeler had a national reputation as a watch collector and at the time of his death, had one of the finest and most important collections of timepieces in the world. Just what disposition will be made of this collection will not be known until the will of the deceased is read.
Many jewelers throughout the country will recall having seen Mr. Wheeler's collection at the various State and national conventions. On more than one occasion, Mr. Wheeler loaned his collection to public institutes. The last time it was on public view was at the Brooklyn Museum.
Mr. Wheeler never allowed his collection to number over 100 and he was particular to have each watch represent a different period. If by any chance two watches from the same period came into Mr. Wheeler's hands he always picked out the most representative one and then discarded the other one. Mr. Wheeler was one of the first members of the Jewelers' 24 Karat Club and was also at one time affiliated with the Maiden Lane Historical Society. He was likewise a member of the Crescent Club of Brooklyn.
Deceased is survived by his widow, two sisters, Mrs. Frederick J. Jennings Wood, of London, and Mrs. Amos P. Hawley, of New York, and one brother, Frank L. Wheeler, who resides in Arizona.
Source: The Jewelers' Circular - 7th February 1923