Grandpa Lionel Wheeler celebrated his 100th birthday with his family over the weekend. (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

Grandpa Lionel Wheeler celebrated his 100th birthday with his family over the weekend. (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

Kelowna Daredevil turns 100

Lionel James Wheeler was celebrated by his family this weekend at the Canadian Legion in Kelowna.

A local “daredevil” turned 100 this weekend while surrounded by his family.

Lionel James Wheeler was surprised when he showed up to what he thought would be a quiet lunch. When he opened the doors to his regular hang-out spot at the Royal Canadian Legion in Kelowna he was greeted by a room full of his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, excited to wish him a happy birthday.

“We tricked him,” said granddaughter Kerrie Wheeler.

She said that they had a small birthday celebration the night before, on the day of his actual birthday (Feb.19), so that he wouldn’t suspect anything.

Grandpa Wheeler, or “Papa funny”, as he is called by the youngest members of the Wheeler family, is a joyful man who is full of energy and wit.

Lionel had three children with the love of his life, Palmila Wheeler. She passed away in 2010 and is remembered by her adoring husband and family. Together, they raised a family that loves the outdoors and prioritizes giving back to the community.

Grandpa Wheeler has had the “pleasure” of watching his close-knit family of 41 children, grand, great-grand and great-great-grand-children grow up.

“I’ve changed a lot of diapers in my life,” joked Lionel.

“I basically grew up at my grandparent’s house,” said Kerrie, who lived across the street from Papa funny. “He never missed a track meet.”

He taught most of the people gathered in the Legion Centre how to ski and ride a bike and spent many hours towing them around behind his bike before they could pedal themselves.

He was very involved in the outdoor community in Lumby and Revelstoke, volunteering with trail maintenance, at the ski hill and coaching sports teams.

Lionel has been active his whole life and said that he was still riding his bike last summer. He played for the Lumby Flying French Men hockey team, coached and raced nordic skiing and completed a yearly 100km nordic ski marathon every year.

Lionel said he isn’t one to brag but he did jump the famous Revelstoke Ski Jump, North America’s largest at the time. He said that he spent his winters on the mountain and his summers mountain biking, swimming and canoeing around Lumby and then Revelstoke. He said he missed skiing but was carving up the slopes with his great-grandkids until a few years ago, at the age of 92.

When he wasn’t on an outdoor adventure, Lionel worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway out of Revelstoke. He settled down in the mountain town to raise a family with his wife after serving in the army. He has been living independently in Kelowna-Lake Country for the past few years and still likes to go out and have a beer with “the old guys.”

Lionel did not disclose his secret to longevity but we can only hope that it doesn’t have anything to do with his favourite food… liver and onions.


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