Charles “Griggs” Wheeler, 91, Captain, US Navy, (Retired), passed away peacefully in Jacksonville, Fl with his family by his side on Monday, December 26, 2022. Charles was raised in Augusta, Georgia, married his high school sweetheart Jane O’Connor at Sacred Heart Church, and after a 24-year career in the Navy, retired to Augusta where Griggs and Jane were longtime parishioners at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church. In 2013 they moved to Jacksonville, FL to be supported and cared for by family members.
Griggs was born on March 31, 1931, son of Mae (Brennan) and Ellis Levi Wheeler. The family home was on Johns Road Extension, a dirt road back then. He was well known by his children and grandchildren for his storytelling, which included tall tales of growing up during the Great Depression. The walks were long, they grew their own food, milked cows, gathered eggs, raised animals, and they bartered for everything else. Sometimes Griggs had to go to school with shoes sprinkled with toilet water, but still smelling of cow manure from early morning chores.
Among his many fond memories on Johns Road were the daily small miracles of his hard-working parents and his Granny as they made ends meet; his Granny Brennan’s blackberry pies, Mother’s rose water and glycerin cures, and his Father’s secret potions that, when rubbed on the coats of horses destined for the pet food factories, brought them back to life in the green pastures nearby.
Unfortunately, these childhood memories also included the loss of his father Ellis when Griggs was 12 and he had to drive his Dad to the hospital. Griggs often told the story of seeing his older brother Tom coming back on emergency leave from World War II as their father was dying in the hospital. “We were all waiting for Tom, expecting him to come home. On the bottom road was a dirt road with pasture on one side and our yard on the other and there were great big, old, wild cherry trees, providing shade, it was in the summer. Suddenly our feisty dog, Robert Johnson, comes flying up the road and we look and there was Tom coming down the road with a duffle bag over his shoulder.” His Dad ultimately died of an infection as there were no antibiotics in those days. It was a story that still brought tears to his eyes many years later and it was often accompanied by Griggs singing his favorite song “The Green, Green, Grass of Home.” Griggs always had jobs to help the family make ends meet, one of them was delivering papers on his bike; a favorite memory of Jane’s was how she would get up early every morning before school to look out her window and see Griggs as he rode by her house on his paper route.
He attended Boys Catholic High School, Marion Military Institute, and the U.S Naval Academy, which he graduated from in 1954. His Academy yearbook mentioned that he “could be found in the gym during any down time,” a habit that he greatly enjoyed well into his 80s as he perfected his planks, holding them for minutes at a time.
Jane and Griggs lived in a variety of home ports, including San Diego, San Francisco, Norfolk, Annapolis, Pearl Harbor, and Washington D.C. One of Grigg’s favorite deployments was Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, where he commanded the USS Davidson (DE-1045) during the Vietnam conflict. During his Vietnam service, he was awarded two Bronze Stars, one for valor. He also received the Navy Commendation Medal, the RVN Meritorious Unit Commendation, and two National Defense Medals.
After retiring from the Navy, Griggs had a second career in charge of the NJROTC unit at Silver Bluff High School, Aiken, SC where he mentored high school students. As a result of his own childhood experience, he had a special place in his heart for students navigating high school without the advantage of both parents and enjoyed watching all his students develop self-discipline and leadership skills. One student, David Perry, remembers, “As a 9th grader I rode to and from school with Captain Wheeler. For 4 years we had the best conversations about life. I remember the first time he told me ‘David I’m proud of you,’ and the first time he told me that he loved me. Captain loved all of us. He was truly a great man!”
In addition to being a devoted husband and loving father of six children, he enjoyed fixing old cars, repairing antique furniture (with meticulous attention to detail), listening to country music, and tending to the upkeep of their many homes, especially their retirement home in the historic Summerville district of Augusta.
In keeping with his lifelong Catholic faith, he was quick to reach out and help someone, whether it was stopping and changing a tire, giving some encouragement, “keep your chin up and keep charging” was a favorite, or offering a few dollars. He dedicated himself to taking attentive care of Jane, day and night during her final years in memory care until her passing in October of 2020.
Family members include his children, Charles “Bo” Wheeler (Mary), Maura Cardwell, Patricia Wheeler, Helen Cole (Crawford), Michael Wheeler, and Joan Wheeler; 14 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his parents, Mae and Ellis Wheeler; his brothers, Tom Wheeler and Billy Wheeler; and his sister Patsy Hunt.
The family would like to thank all his caregivers at The Legacy at St. Johns, Bartram Lakes Assisted Living, and Community Hospice of Jacksonville, who helped him in his final years.
A joint funeral Mass will be celebrated for Griggs and Jane on January 27, 2023 at 11:00 AM at St. Mary On the Hill Catholic Church, 1420 Monte Sano Ave, Augusta, GA., and the family will receive friends prior beginning at 10:15.
The family welcomes memorial donations to St. Mary On the Hill Catholic Church as an expression of sympathy instead of flowers.
Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors, 214 Davis Rd., Augusta, GA 30907 (706) 364-8484. Please sign the guestbook at