Barnardos Australia Farewells “Old Boy”
Henry Wheeler (1920 – 2020)
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Barnardos oldest “Old Boy” Henry Wheeler on 27th November 2020, aged 100 years.
Born in England on 19 September 1920, Henry was placed in the care of Barnardos at the age of seven. He was sent to Australia as a child migrant and was part of the 13th party of children sent from the UK under Dr Barnardo’s auspices. Arriving in Sydney Harbour on the S.S. Balranald on 21/07/1930, Henry was a member of the second party to be sent to the then newly opened farm training school at Picton.
Henry went on to live a very full life, working as a drover at a sheep station and then joining the Australian army in 1939 and serving in Africa, Greece, Crete, Lebanon and Syria, Darwin and New Guinea. In Israel he met and fell in love with his future wife Rachel. She followed him to Australia where they married and had four daughters, eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren and built a wonderful life together. In 1955 they made the decision to move to the USA to be closer to Rachel’s family. After a rich and varied working life, including operating a garage and working in construction, Henry came full circle by returning to farm life, managing a peach orchard in Colorado. Henry and Rachel enjoyed their romance for 75 years until Rachel passed away last year.
As part of the Old Boys and Girls initiative, Barnardos provided Henry with his historical records, restoring his childhood identity and family tree. Henry was incredibly grateful to Barnardos for keeping great record of his past as he was able to reconnect with some of his biological family over the years including being reunited with his brother Tom and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins in both the UK and Australia.
Henry visited Barnardos Australia’s Head Office in Ultimo in October 2017 with his wife Rachel and daughter Ruth, where he lit up the room with his wonderful stories at a special morning tea held in his honour by Barnardos CEO Deirdre Cheers.
Henry often said he felt lucky to have been placed with Barnardos and that if he had not been sent to Australia he would not have had the opportunity to make such a successful and happy life. Everyone who met Henry over the years, including those of us at Barnardos Australia, also feel lucky to have known such an engaging, warm and resilient gentleman. Vale Henry.