Customers, co-workers pay tribute to longtime Libertyville mail carrier
Love, not tradition, was the reason behind a police-led procession of U.S. Postal Service and civilian vehicles honoring the memory of Libertyville mail carrier Marcus Wheeler on his longtime route Saturday morning only three days after his sudden and unexpected death at 56.
"I've been in the post office for 32 years and in management for about 15 years," Libertyville Postmaster Patrick Sweeney said. "I've never seen this. He is loved by his customers. He had a great personality and sense of humor. His smile was constant."
Sweeney said Wheeler had been with the Libertyville post office for 33 years and was one of only three left who had started before the move to the current building in 1991.
Though originally from the South Side of Chicago, Wheeler moved to Waukegan to be closer to the job he came to love.
Libertyville resident Nicholas Wennerstrom said he met Wheeler in 2012 and came to consider him a close friend -- even going to his house for Thanksgiving. His 9- and 5-year-old sons used to shout "It's Marcus!" whenever they saw a post office truck.
"They broke down when I told them," Wennerstrom said. "They liked him, too."
The sidewalks along Wheeler's route were filled with people who felt the same way during the procession, including Bob Castleton, who said the beloved postal worker had come by his house after his shift the previous Saturday to help him install fluorescent lights after hearing him mention the task a few hours earlier.
Wheeler's longtime co-worker Terry Smith, who retired last August, said he begged Wheeler to take over his route, which is considered to be a better one in a number of ways. But the idea of walking away from all his friends made it a no-sale for Wheeler.
For those who took part either as participants or spectators of Saturday's procession, it was a reflection of the positive impact Wheeler made on all he met.
"On days like this, you realize maybe the world isn't so bad after all," said Wennerstrom, who added that he and Wheeler had also discussed weighty topics like race.
"Very apropos," neighbor Brian Waldron said of the procession for the friend with whom he shared a love for Chicago blues music. "I'm sure the family gets a big boost out of this."
Wheeler's family was represented in the procession by siblings, his daughter Camryn, her mother Kimberly Price, and several nephews and nieces.
"It just says what we always knew about him," his sister Aminah Woodhouse said.
"It made me so proud of him, and I was always proud of him," niece Aminah Burns said.
Camryn Wheeler believes her father's example of finding friendships in a turbulent world is one everyone can follow, even if it may not be as easy for all of them.
Living in a predominantly Black Chicago neighborhood, she was amazed to see such a tribute from people of so many different backgrounds and ages in an area that was predominantly white.
"I saw a veteran with one leg who was standing up for my father," she said. "I know that if he was alive he wouldn't even believe this because he was so humble."