In Memoriam: Gladys Jenkins Wheeldon
Gladys Jenkins Wheeldon, Middle Atlantic Chapter (MAC) member and widow of MAC Founder and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Thomas F. Wheeldon, died on January 16, 2007, in Richmond, Virginia. She was 94 years old. She had been a strong supporter of the chapter throughout the years even after Dr. Wheeldon's death in 1976. At the first chapter meeting held March 23–25, 1952, Gladys Wheeldon signed as a guest, apparently not having a separate membership, although playing a strong supporting role to her husband who served as president of the Middle Atlantic Chapter for over twelve years. Mrs. Wheeldon had a membership in her own name after her husband's death for a total involvement with MAC and rhododendrons of almost 55 years. In the early years of the chapter Mrs. Wheeldon hosted many speakers for MAC at the Wheeldon's home in Richmond and was friends with early names in the rhododendron world such as Dr. Henry Skinner, Director of the U.S. National Arboretum; Frederic P. Lee, author of The Azalea Book; hybridizer Henry Yates; and Dr. Fred Coe. Some others she knew whose names appeared on the list of the first meeting and who are still remembered in the field were Joseph Gable, Anne Glass, Henry Hohman, Kenneth McDonald (Sr.), A.J. Shoosmith, L.G. Tingle, D.D. Withers, Peter Barber (of Exbury Estates - whom she entertained), David Leach, and John C. Wister.
Mrs. Wheeldon received the Bronze Medal from the Middle Atlantic Chapter on May 10, 1980, for her generosity with time and money and sharing her garden, one of the outstanding ericaceous gardens in the South; and for sharing plants and cuttings, from Gladsgay as the garden and nursery were called.
She received the Award of Merit from MAC on April 26, 2003, for contributing to the founding, growth, and excellence of the chapter. She contributed many records of her own, as well as of Dr. Wheeldon and Gladsgay Gardens to the Rhododendron and Azalea Manuscripts collection of the University of Virginia Library.
Mrs. Wheeldon was a financial benefactor for several rhododendron related causes including the rhododendron garden at the James Madison University Arboretum, the Middle Atlantic Chapter ARS, and the Rhododendron and Azalea Endowment Fund at the University of Virginia Library to which she made the key donation to get the fund started.
She was born and raised in Frostburg, Maryland. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1933 and earned certification as a registered physical therapist in 1937. She was active in the Women's Board of Managers of Sheltering Arms Hospital and of the Richmond Academy of Medicine Auxiliary, the Council of the Virginia Museum, and several other organizations. She was also active in helping a group get the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in the Richmond area off the ground and established for the City of Richmond.
Mrs. Wheeldon welcomed visitors to her garden even after she was widowed until she moved to Westham Green in Richmond. She will be remembered by those who knew her for her graciousness, hospitality, generosity, and wit.