January 23, 2022

Ex-county legislator, firefighter Wheelock remembered for his community involvement

Gordon Wheelock Mug

For more than 70 years, Gordon Wheelock would stop by the Homer Fire Station to chat with firefighters. Old, young, it didn’t matter. He was a 73-year member, a former Cortland County legislator and Homer Village Board member and that’s just what he did.

People who knew him spoke fondly of him Monday, a day after Wheelock died at age 94.

Wheelock served on the Homer Village Board of Trustees for 18 years under mayors Mary Alice Bellardini and Harry Calale and represented Homer on the Cortland County Legislature for six years.

He was a 73-year active member of the Homer Fire Department and served as the department’s first president.

“He was a good colleague and a good friend,” said Donnell Boyden, who joined the county Legislature about the same time as Wheelock, whose first term began in 2012.

Boyden, who represented Homer, Preble and Scott, said Wheelock, a fellow Republican, encouraged people to become involved in politics. Boyden, who represented Homer, Preble and Scott, said Wheelock, a fiscal conservative, was proud to be named Cortland County Republican of the Year in 2017.

“He thought it was very important to participate in local politics,” Boyden said, adding Wheelock was very informed as a legislator and championed senior issues.

Wheelock said in 2019 he has always been an enrolled Republican, “but I sure as heck don’t vote Republican all the time,” he said. He considers himself “a moderate conservative.” “I’m not afraid to spend money,” he said. “I learned that in business. You’ve got to spent money to make money.”

“I really enjoyed him, not only as a cohort in the legislature but as an individual,” said Kevin Whitney, who represented Cortlandville on the county Legislature and sat next to Wheelock at meetings.

“He was one never to mince words,” Whitney said. “He told you how he felt. There was no guessing.”

Homer Fire Chief Maylon Irish Jr. met Wheelock shortly after becoming a firefighter 47 years ago. They were members of different hose companies.

“He was a very active firefighter at the time,” Irish said. “I watched him and listened to how he interacted with other people. In those days, we watched the older guys. He was a good firefighter.”

Irish recalled that Wheelock’s nickname was “Sawdust” because he worked as a logger.

Wheelock would stop at the Homer fire station nearly daily until last fall, when his health worsened, talking with fellow firefighters and relating stories to the younger members.

“He would mess around with the younger guys,” Irish said. “I don’t think there was anyone who disliked him.”

Wheelock lived in Cortland County his whole life. He lived in a house he built in 1957. His father was a dairy farmer, and his mother worked for the corset factories in Cortland.

He skipped two grades and graduated from McGraw High School at age 15, after playing baseball, basketball and soccer.

He spent two semesters at Syracuse University, but he didn’t like it and didn’t continue.

Wheelock was a retired contractor and was half-owner of Homer Logging. He also worked for the Brockway Motor Co. in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Boyden said Wheelock was an avid hunter and owned a hunting camp in Taylor for many years.

He also played baseball in the senior league until he was 80 and continued as an umpire until he was 85.

Wheelock married at 21; his wife Velma died in 2006. She already had one child, Pamela de Lyra, and they had a daughter together, Diana Wheelock. Their son, Guy, died in 2003. He had four grandchildren, at least eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

No funeral services have been announced.