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David Allen "Cairo" Wheeler, age 83, of Deadwood, South Dakota, passed away on Tuesday, September 12, 2023, in Dell Rapids, South Dakota.
Graveside service for David will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 28, 2023, at the Lakefield City Cemetery with Pastor Kathy Brandt officiating.
David was born on January 6, 1940, in Detroit, Michigan to Frank and Eva (Baumgarn) Wheeler. He was baptized June 16, 1940, in Bayard, West Virginia.
David was a competitor. He poured the spirit of competition and passion into almost everything he did. From athletics, to work, even drinking and gambling. He was an alcoholic but was proud to tell you he quit drinking “before light beer was invented”; that decision helped him live a long, productive life.
Arthur “Arch” and Cecelia “Cel” (Baumgarn) Radke helped raise David and his sister Sharon on a farm in Sioux Valley Township, Jackson County, Minnesota. He said his favorite place to go through life was their house. He attended elementary school in Sioux Valley and Spirit Lake, Iowa. David and Sharon later moved to live with their mother Eva “Eve” and stepfather Ray Van Westen in Jackson, Minnesota. Favorite childhood memories include playing in the woods near the river and with his dog Rasputin.
He played quarterback on the Jackson High School football team and was on a district champion high school basketball team. He excelled in track and field events, including state pole vault 1958 runner-up and conference champion in the high jump. He was junior class president and in Latin Club. He graduated from Jackson High School in 1958.
As a teenager he picked corn for farmers at 90 cents an hour and worked at Super Value stocking and carrying out groceries for one dollar an hour. His first car was a 1932 Ford that cost $29.
He earned his Associate of Arts degree from Worthington Junior College where he pole vaulted on the track team. Additional college work at Mankato State University, where he was also on the track team, and American University in Cairo, Egypt.
He married and divorced Nancy Olson (mother of Terry, Mark, Julie and Paul), Pauline (mother of Michael), and Lori Gordon. Charlyne (Kaulukukui) McNeely-Joy (mother of “Momi”) and Elizabeth “Liz” (Dworkin) Hinds were other special partners in his life.
One of his early jobs was at the Campbell Soup Company in Worthington, Minnesota. He also traveled around the country riding freight trains, picking fruit and finding whatever employment he could during his “wild years”.
He worked for SMA Construction, T.E. Ibberson, Ibberson International and Cargill. His career spanned forty years of worldwide travel in the specialized field of slip form concrete construction, including the building of the forms, operation of hydraulic jacking systems and installation of all machinery. Doing this work in foreign countries was especially challenging. He solved the problems, helping build huge concrete elevators and feed mills in the United States, Mexico, Mongolia, China and Egypt, where he learned to speak Arabic and picked up his nickname, Cairo.
In semi-retirement, his attention and talents turned toward creation of smaller works of art. Utilizing the tools of his former trade, he spent time near a marsh in Mississippi creating one-of-a-kind furniture and carvings of the wildlife around him. Using metal, glass, and wood…almost all recycled and found in his community. His works of art were also well built and functional. He enjoyed having goats and other animals on his Mississippi farm.
He loved to play poker and was winning Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments before the card game exploded in popularity. When he moved back to Deadwood from Mississippi, he was a regular player at the No. 10 Saloon. The dealers, staff and fellow card players became family. He enjoyed sitting outside his cabin on the hill overlooking the town, feeding the birds, and enjoying the view. He liked fishing, music, dancing, reading and watching movies, TV series and videos of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren on DVD.
The steep hill and 32 steps up to his home were challenging the older he got, but he stayed there as long as possible. While he could still see well enough to drive, he’d travel to see family, many times showing up unannounced. He was very proud of his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. He kept every card and photo sent to him by family and friends. He displayed them in every room. When asked for one thing he would want people to remember about him, he said, “Not always steady, but pretty honest”. He said his greatest accomplishment was his kids and how much he loved all of them.
Family members include:
Son Terry and Tracy (Titus) of Minneapolis have two children, Heather and Jamie. Heather and Marty Gabel have one child, Violet. Jamie and Ryan Sheahan have three children, Kane, Marvin and Delaney.
Son Mark (deceased) and Christy Orison have one child, Nick. Nick and his wife Carrie have three children, Hadley, Elyse and Ayden.
Daughter Julie and Kevin Mathias of Heron Lake, Minnesota have two children, Kristen and Shaun. Kristen and Tommy Tonda have four children, Natalie, Charlotte, Macy and Louie. Shaun and Claire Mathias have two children, Ruby and Milo.
Son Paul and Krista (Wede) of Olathe, Kansas have three children, Ellie, Adam and Emma. Paul also has a child with Cindy (Kirsch), Breann. Breann and Nick Grein have four children, Brenan Runge, Izzy, Drake and Gander.
Son Michael of Stockton, California.
Daughter Shealyne “Momi” and Casey Christensen of Idaho Falls, Idaho have one child, Keahi.
David also loved his sister, Sharon Sadusky of Jackson; her daughters Shelley and Darcy and their families; stepson Eric Erickson and Loree; niece Robin Rowe; nephew Rodney Troff and his Deadwood area friends.
We family members are grateful for his friends in Deadwood for keeping an eye on him when we weren’t around. Thanks to them, EMTs, doctors and nurses…his successful emergency surgery gave us all an opportunity to see and/or talk to him at least one more time.
Blessed be the memory of David Allen “Cairo” Wheeler; Dad, Grandpa, Great-grandpa and friend.