Tributes paid to footballing stalwart Jim Wheatley


Tributes have been paid to former footballer and referee Jim Wheatley who died in October after battling leukaemia.

His funeral was held at Eastbourne Crematorium on Tuesday November 10 and tributes were led by his son Paul and brother Alf.

They described him as a man who was a friend to many, compassionate, caring and devoted to his wife Sheila.

Born in Brighton in 1937, Jim and his parents and younger brother Alf moved to Eastbourne in 1945 and were among the first 14 occupants living in new pre-fabs in Cade Street, Hampden Park.

Jim passed his 11 plus and went to Eastbourne Grammar School before starting work at Bradfords Coal Merchants.

He spent his two years National Service in the Royal Navy and then started work at the South Eastern Electricity Board where he stayed for 40 years working as an electrical engineer.

He met his wife Sheila Buckwell at the Eastbourne Pier Ballroom and they married in March 1962.

While Sheila and Jim and their daughter Lorraine and Paul lived in Knoll Crescent, Jim and brother Alf had a small win on the football pools which saw Jim put down a deposit on one of the new houses being built at the Crumbles.

They camped out overnight outside the site sales office so they could be in the front of the queue when the plots were released for purchase in Jellicoe Close, which was to be the family home until Jim’s death.

Always a keen footballer, Jim’s career came to an early end due to leg and knee injuries and he was asked to manage Hampden Park Football Club where they enjoyed much success during the three year period he was there.

Jim moved on to refereeing and gave 18 years service gaining promotion and he was a Class 1 referee.

Alf said, “It was generally regarded he could have made it to the top of the profession had he started at a young age. He was totally fair and unbiased and had the perfect personality and aptitude. These qualities reflected everything Jim did throughout his life.”

The greatest heartbreak in Jim and Sheila’s lives was the loss of their daughter Lorraine to bone cancer at the age of 24.

Sheila also suffered with muscular dystrophy and knowing she would eventually become confined to a wheelchair, the couple embarked on many holidays and in their later years spent much time in America where their two grandchildren Madison and Jacob live.

On retiring from Seeboard, Jim became a voluntary car ambulance driver covering 30,000 miles a year. He also worked hard in his home and garden and was willing to lend a hand to any neighbour or friend.

Sheila died in 2008 and having spent practically their whole lives doing everything together, Jim’s family said he never really got over losing her.

Jim’s health began to deteriorate in 2012 and he was eventually diagnosed with leukaemia which he bravely bore, never feeling sorry for himself.

He was shown great kindness by the Pevensey Ward team at the DGH and was popular with them all. There were hugs and tears when Jim decided he wanted to stop treatment and say his goodbyes to everyone.

Alf said, “He was a proud man and wanted everyone to remember him as he had been. He will be remembered as a man of principles, kind, reliable and loyal.”

Jim’s son Paul said his father lived his life to the full, day after day and he and his sister Lorraine grew up in a house full of love and laughter.

“Nothing gave him more pleasure in later life than attending Eastbourne Borough home games with Alf and Billy Wheatley though his impartiality frustrated everyone in the home stand,” he said.

“He gave credit where it was due in all things and would often applaud the victorious visitors.”

Paul also paid tribute to his father for caring for Sheila.

“There are few men capable of the level of care and compassion my Dad showed towards my Mum, always by each other’s side, through good times and bad,” he said.

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