John Wheelahan | Republican American

WATERTOWN – John (Bill) Wheelahan passed away in eternal rest surrounded by his family on March 14, 2023 after a brave battle with mesothelioma at VITAS.

Bill was born in Waterbury on March 5, 1934 to Francis Wheelahan Sr. and Jane Tappan Wheelahan. Bill was married to the love of his life, Jaqueline (Lafreniere) for 65 years. He spent his early years in the Waterbury section of Bunker Hill, attending Bunker Hill Elementary School before moving to the family farm on Bunker Hill in Watertown.

He attended South School in Oakville and Oliver Wolcott Tech in Torrington. Bill was a Korean War Veteran who served in the 5th Regiment Combat Team, 555th Field Artillery Battalion in the DMZ and graduated as a Staff Sergeant. He was a life member of American Legion Post 195 and VFW of Watertown.

Bill worked for Watertown’s DPW before joining RJ Black as a water systems specialist, from which he retired after 32 years.

He was meticulous in all tasks and someone you wanted to have by your side.

Bill amazed everyone with his breadth of knowledge on so many subjects; While humble, he shared his stories and intellect. If you wanted family history, the origins of a neighborhood, what tool to use, or someone who drives an excavator, he was the guy. Always willing to help, he recently dubbed his grandson’s property his “playground” where he could be found mowing and enjoying the peaceful landscape.

It’s a well-known and fun-loving fact that everyone who knew him said, “He knew some sh-.”

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To honor and cherish his memory are his three daughters, Elaine (Ray) Browning, Barbara (Charlie) Mordenti and Karen Bowden, who loved him dearly. Bill was very proud of his six grandchildren, all of whom he had a special nickname for, Jenny (Bryan) Gaity, Dalton Browning, Zachary, Cody (Aubrey), Kyle Mordenti and Richard Dumaine. Grandpa Wolf will be missed by his great-grandchildren Avery, Brodie, Emma, ​​Andrew and Colin.

He is also survived by brothers-in-law Steve (Annette) Lafreniere and Larry (Sylvia) Lafreniere; and his “favorite” sisters-in-law Paulette Lackey Halfpenny and Linda Serra Dayton.

Known for his dry humor and friendly snarl, he was affectionately known as Uncle Bill the Wolf by his 16 nieces and nephews.

In addition to his parents, Bill was predeceased by his son James Allan Wheelahan; also his brother and sister-in-law Frank and Patricia Wheelahan Jr. and his brothers-in-law Maurice and Rene Lafreniere.

Bill enjoyed his daily trip to The Chef for breakfast and chat. He loved riding the roads of New England with Jackie and enjoying the stillness of the Cape Canal, where they loved to sit with their fried shrimp and scallops and stroll along the water.

They traveled to their favorite spots in Booth Bay and Bailey’s Island, Maine for many years, sometimes accompanied by their close friends Russell and Geri Van Buren.

The family would like to thank the infusion center team, particularly Dr. Uday Lele, for her exceptional care and professionalism, a quality Bill appreciated.

Burial arrangements were entrusted to the Hickcox Funeral Home, 195 Main St., Watertown.

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In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Bill can be made to MidState Medical’s Cancer Aid and mailed to: Development Office, MidState Medical Center, Meriden, CT 06451; or online at

A service with military honors will be held on Thursday, March 23, 2023 at 11:30 a.m. at the mausoleum in Mount Olivet Cemetery, 669 Platt Road, Watertown.

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