William Selden Wheeler, 76, president and owner of a numerous businesses in the Washington suburbs, died June 15 at Capital Hospice-Halquist Memorial Inpatient Center in Arlington of complications from a head injury sustained two months ago while he was working on his boat in Annapolis.
Mr. Wheeler, an Alexandria resident, lobbied extensively in the mid-1970s to introduce an emergency shock trauma center to Virginia after his life was saved by the Maryland center.
"Thirty years later, almost to the day, he went right back to that unit," said his wife of 52 years, Graydon Wheeler.
In 1974, Mr. Wheeler was a passenger in a speeding Lincoln Continental that crashed head-on into an oak tree off Route 450 near Bowie. His arms and legs were broken, and his spleen was ruptured, among other injuries. Rescue workers figured that he had about six minutes to live, but a medevac helicopter took him to the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medicine in Baltimore, where he became one of the first patients at the new shock trauma unit. He was so grateful for the care that he formed a group called Hospital Action in Shock Trauma Emergencies to push for Virginia to form a similar unit.
"We need the helicopters and we need the governor [then Mills E. Godwin] to tell the state police," he told The Washington Post in 1975. "The way to do it is to get it going today."
Virginia did eventually set up a similar system.
Mr. Wheeler, a native of New Haven, Conn., was a man who knew how to get things going. He started a number of businesses in his life. As a student at Wesleyan University, he formed Cape Cod Clambake Inc. which organized clambakes for clients. He revived the business after graduation and again after his service in the Navy in World War II and the Korean War. It was in the Washington area, where he settled in 1951.
In 1962, he started Master TV Inc. and then Mastervision Inc., which installed antenna systems and cable television lines. He moved on to real estate development and property management in 1969 with Sesso Real Estate Co. and Washington Overlook Inc. In 1984, he founded El Inc., an Edgewater-based coin-laundry company, which he ran until his death.
He was a private pilot, a past district chairman for the Republican Party and a volunteer with the PTA, Boy Scouts and Mount Vernon Park Association.
Survivors include his wife, of Alexandria; three sons, William S. "Sam" Wheeler III of Arlington, Peter Rand Wheeler of Barrington, R.I., and Thomas Alan Wheeler of Charlotte; a sister; and two grandchildren.