Obituary: Aurora Dorothy Wheeler
Aurora Dorothy Wheeler, of Mystic, Conn., passed away peacefully at her home, surrounded by family on April 27. She was 91.
An active businesswoman and well-known hostess in Darien, Conn. and Newport, R.I., Dottie Wheeler (as she was known) lived most recently in Mystic at StoneRidge with her husband of 66 years, Malcolm F. (Mac) Wheeler.
Dottie Wheeler was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., the daughter of Andrew Anastopoulos and Yolande Cardullo Anastopoulos. In the 1930s they moved Dottie (with her brothers William and Vincent) to the family home on Pyrgos, Greece. Dottie studied at a private school run by an order of French nuns who taught her French, while she spoke Greek with her Greek father, and Italian with her Italian mother.
Dottie was a teenager when World War II broke out, and her family relocated to Athens, considered at the time to be a “safe city,” on the belief that the Axis forces would respect the sanctity of its antiquities. They did not, and Dottie endured multiple bombing raids in Athens. She witnessed the Nazi invasion, and bore a lifelong memory of robotic SS men among the German troops marching down the main street. When the Allies liberated Greece, she became a radio singer, performing with the combo Dorothy and Her Friends on the Armed Forces Network, a welcome American voice performing familiar pop hits for the battle-weary troops stationed in Athens.
Soon after the conclusion of the war, Dottie and her family bore eyewitness to the violence of the Greek Civil War, where Communist forces made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government. The brutality Dottie witnessed during that conflict left her with a lifelong abhorrence of Communism.
Dottie and her family were repatriated to the United States in 1946, sailing to New York on the MS Gripsholm. Soon Dottie was studying Journalism at Columbia University and working in campus administration at University Hall. It was there in 1949 that she met undergraduate Malcolm Wheeler, and the two were wed the following year. The couple soon moved to Washington, DC, where Dottie put her language skills to work as a bilingual secretary at the International Monetary Fund.
After years of zigzagging moves across the country with four children, Dottie and Mac settled in Darien, Conn., where they resided, full- and part-time, from 1965 to 2007. In the late 1960s, Dottie put her language skills to use as a teacher at the Berlitz School. She later earned a real estate license and embarked on a successful career as a real estate broker at Charter Oak Realty, Realtech, and Scott Associates.
In her years in Darien, Dottie welcomed hundreds of guests at her New Year’s Day open house, as well as at smaller affairs throughout the year. She was a longtime member of the Tokeneke Club, where she was an avid tennis player. Dottie also hammed it up in front of young audiences as a member of a children’s theater troupe sponsored by the Junior League of Stamford-Norwalk.
Upon moving to Newport, Dottie and Mac began acquiring historic homes for rental and sale, which she would restore, refurbish, and redecorate. Through her company Creativity Unlimited, Dottie donated her services to create bright new interiors for the Newport Hospital. Her whimsical designs were also featured at the Newport Designer Guild Show Houses in Newport and Watch Hill, R.I. She was also an accomplished amateur writer, artist, and songwriter whose skills also included gourmet cooking and restoring antiques. Aside from her family, Dottie’s greatest loves were politics, jazz, foreign films, and adopting pets from the animal shelter.
The Wheelers were active in many aspects of Newport life. They hosted many young tennis pros in town to compete at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. They continued to throw memorable parties for friends and neighbors, as well as events for the Newport Music Festival. The Wheelers also hosted visiting speakers for the English Speaking Union. They were contributors to the International Tennis Hall of Fame and members of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club. The City of Newport declared December 4, 2005 to be “Mac and Dottie Wheeler Day,” to thank them for their efforts “to make Newport a better place.”
In February of 2000, after fifty years of marriage, Dottie and Mac Wheeler returned to Columbia University to renew their wedding vows at St. Paul’s Chapel, where they were married. Afterward, their half-century love affair was celebrated at a reception at the Faculty House, where they were toasted by friends and family.
Since moving to StoneRidge in 2010, Dottie has enjoyed many gatherings and activities, and was known around the community and by her many caregivers as someone who always had a smile and a kind word for all.
Dottie Wheeler is survived by her husband Malcolm, her children Scott Wheeler of North Reading, Mass., Wendy Wheeler of Newton, Mass., Jill Bourbeau of Franklin, Conn., and Drew Wheeler of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and grandchildren Margaret Wheeler, Emily Reid, Elizabeth Wheeler, and Alexa Wheeler.
There was a celebration of Dottie Wheeler’s life at StoneRidge on May 7, 2016 at 1:00 PM. Funeral service, burial and reception will be held at St. Columba’s Chapel, 55 Vaucluse Avenue, Middletown, R.I. on May 14, 2016 at 11:00 AM.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Potter League for Animals, 87 Oliphant Lane, Middletown, R.I. 02842.