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Robert A. Wheeler, 81, Founder of Ukulele Consciousness
Robert Wheeler, who in various films and recent interviews often called himself the pope of the 3rd Wave ukulele craze died at home in Littleton, MA on July 13, only 4 weeks after being diagnosed with a rare leukemia.
Long before the latest resurgence of ukulele popularity Wheeler had begun acquiring ukes and memorabilia reaching back to 1850. He and his wife Margie together assembled a world-class collection of over 250 'ukie babies' chronicling a nearly complete history of the humble little instrument. Robert (never Bob!) also founded Ukulele Consciousness, a philosophy devoted to sharing his broad knowledge and passion. He was known nationally among serious collectors, musicians and instrument makers and convinced several luthiers to build ukes for him. He was delighted to be a part of Ukulele Noir, an eclectic and dysfunctional group of Boston area performers.
Wheeler's dedication and efforts on behalf of the uke were much appreciated by other stars in the field including the great John King and Mike Longworth.
Tall, handsome and aware of his youthful good looks, Robert always wore Carhartt overalls and a bowtie while performing. Last year he published a series of short vignettes entitled Block Stories about growing up in San Francisco. He liked to photograph street scenes in the style of Cartier Bresson and idolized his friend Ivan Massar, the late Black Star photographer.
Wheeler made his living programming computers, but exhibited very little interest in them and openly claimed to be incompetent. He was indifferent to sports, had no interest in church, and was not a member of any formal social group devoting his time primarily to ukuleles, photography and writing.
Robert is survived by his Beloved 4th Wife Margie, his daughter the Reverend Diana Wheeler of San Francisco, and 3 grandchildren.