Dorothy Lehnen Wheeler - age: 101
(September 26, 1915 to November 27, 2016
Dorothy "Ducky" Lehnen Wheeler died peacefully, at her home in Ukiah with family by her side, on November 27, 2016. She was born on September 26, 1915, in Brooklyn, New York and was 101 years of age when she passed. Ducky had always been the cornerstone of her family, and her loss will be felt deeply by all who knew her.
Ducky led a long and full life, spanning from the middle of World War I, to Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, the social and political upheaval of the 60's and 70's, and all the way into the new millennium of the 21st century. Through it all she and her husband and childhood sweetheart, Len, stood by each other's side and always served as an inspiration to all who knew them as an example of the strength of love and family. They first met in the 1930's when Ducky was just 16, and Len was a lifeguard at Jones Beach in New York. They would marry a year before America entered World War II, and go on to raise three sons - Roger, Bruce and Rus. Their marriage would last for 66 years, all the way until Len's death in 2006. Both Len and Ducky always instilled a singular sense of family, loyalty, and integrity in their sons and the in rest of their family for generations to come.
Ducky could appear strict, even stubborn some might say, but she was never uncompromising, never rigid. She knew that sometimes, it was OK to bend the rules a bit, or even break them - if that was the right thing to do. It was unheard of for her to lose her tempter - which is not to say she didn't win the majority of arguments she engaged in! Ducky very much enjoyed having fun with her friends and family - whether it be skiing, swimming, boating, or sailing, parties or other social gatherings. Ducky loved the water (hence her nickname), and she, Len and their three sons had many adventures cruising around Long Island in their boat Empty Pockets in the 1950's. After moving from New York to California, they traded in the boat for an RV, and began to explore the West Coast. Every summer they would take their grandson Brandon, and grand-nieces Darian and Tara on camping trips all up and down the California Coast, a tradition that would continue until they were both in their 80's. Ducky was also an extremely talented seamstress and quilter, making everything from wedding dresses to award winning quilting designs. She learned her hobby during the hard times of the Great Depression, as a way to make clothes for herself and her family, as they could not afford to buy them.
Ducky certainly had a wild streak as well - probably something she picked up from growing up in New York City during the Roaring 1920's. This was evident from her early dealings with the Rum Runners in New York during Prohibition as a teenager, to her and Len's involvement with the "Back to the Land" movement in the 1960's and 1970's here in Northern California. It was a bold move for Len and Ducky, after retiring at 60 some odd years of age, to move to the wilds of Humboldt County in order to build a ranch from scratch and live off the land. That initial decision to "get back to the land" would go on to influence the next three generations of the Wheeler family, as is evident by the ranch in Hopland much of her family now calls home.
Ducky was an incredible woman whose strength, kindness and wisdom touched all who knew her. Even in death her love and her wisdom will live on, and continue to help guide her surviving family in hard times and through life's difficulties and upheavals. Ducky is survived by her sister, Virginia Gerdes; her sons, Russell and his wife Peggy Lentz, Bruce, and Roger and his wife Christa Valentin and her son Leon Valentin and daughter Naima Valentin; her grandson Brandon, his wife Julee and Brandon's mother Chanel Wheeler; her great granddaughter Danica; her niece Lori Harvey, Lori's daughters Darien Harvey and Tara Little; her nephew Gary Gerdes, his wife Ann and their son Ian.
We love you Ducky, you will be forever missed.