10254 W. Carlton Bay | Garden City, ID 83714

Emily (Emma) Chela Wheeler September 12, 1993 - May 24, 2023

On September 12th, 1993, Emily “Emma” Chela Wheeler made her dramatic entrance into this world at St. Lukes in Boise, Idaho, breathing on her own and defying expectations from the very start. Emily was born with Spina Bifida and hydrocephaly, and would endure a multitude of surgeries and hospital stays, always with her Mom, Becki, and her Dad, Jim, quite literally at her side.  One or both of them was always at the hospital with her for every single surgery, and one or more of her sisters and brothers were usually there, too.

Emily was always upbeat, and had an absolutely infectious laugh that would make everyone around her laugh, too. She had a great–albeit slightly twisted–sense of humor, and would crack up at someone else’s minor misfortune.  The sight of someone tripping or dropping something would send her into full hysterics, and her beloved brothers, Jesse, Brian, James, and John, were always doing silly things to bring on that belly laugh that we all loved so much.

Emily spent her early years in Emmett, Idaho, where she loved playing with her niece, Maiah, who was only two years younger.  One of their favorite things was playing in the tub together, and one day when they were about 3 and 5, Maiah locked the door to the bathroom and, much to the dismay of her Grandma (Em’s Mom), she refused to unlock it until she was done cutting Emily’s hair.  It all worked out, it seems, since Maiah is now a cosmetologist (and has since gotten much better at cutting hair).  Emily was so very proud of her.

Emily, her Dad, and Mom moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in October of 1999, where they lived with her Dad’s parents, who Emily loved dearly.  While in Colorado, she spent lots of time with many of her aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.  It was a special time filled with lots of family.

When she was young, Emily one day decided she wanted to change her name to Emma. Many friends went on to know her as Emma, and her family always knew her as Emily, but “Em” worked for either one–which is good, because some of us adjusted to the name change better than others, and calling her Em prevented her from yelling at us when we got it wrong!

Em and her Mom moved to Middleton, Idaho, in 2004, and she began her career in the Middleton schools.  It was there that she met her lifelong best friend, Melanie Whiteley. She also began attending the Middleton LDS church and became a member of an even larger family than the one she already had.  Em loved going to church, and members of the congregation made sure she was able to do so by picking her up and bringing her home every Sunday for church, and every Monday to attend Family Home Evening, and also took her on many temple trips, service projects, and to countless dances and special events.  Em loved singing and dancing in her wheelchair, and she had a great time racing people up and down the wheelchair ramps at church, laughing that laugh of hers all the way. Em was baptized on April 27, 2013, and it was a very special day for her.  Em’s family is eternally grateful for all the kindness and love Em received from her church family.

Em graduated from Middleton High School in 2012, and she continued in the post-high school program until 2014.  One of her many surgeries got in the way of her being able to fully complete the program, but Em enjoyed the time she spent, and the friends she made, in school.

Em was granted a special trip for her 21st birthday by the Wishing Star Foundation.  With her sister, Sarah, at the wheel, her Mom and caregiver (and friend), Wendy, along for the journey, they traveled to Salt Lake City where she had backstage passes and was able to meet the band R5, whose lead singer was Ross Lynch of the Disney Channel’s “Austen and Ally”–and one of Em’s several celebrity crushes.  Em got to “rock out” at the concert, and loved every minute!  The ladies were also treated to a multi-course dinner at a very fancy French restaurant in Salt Lake. Em’s specialty meal was prepared just for her by the chef, and included hand-breaded chicken cutlets and pomme frites–better known as chicken strips and fries!–along with her first cocktail, a Dark and Stormy.  Em asked to pay her compliments to the chef, and he obliged by bringing her dessert and chatting with her tableside.  He was very handsome, and Em decided we should call him ‘Dark and Stormy,’ too!  And, as luck would have it, Em’s brother, Brian, happened to be in Salt Lake for work, and he was able to make a surprise visit to the restaurant for a birthday bear hug.

From Utah, the group drove to Jackpot, where Em was treated like royalty and got to stay in a beautiful hotel suite, swam in the pool, and of course got to play the slot machines, and felt like a high roller.  It truly was a trip to remember!

Em was an alumnus of many Wheelchair Sports Camps, a fearless karaoke singer, and loved playing the slot machines in Ontario, Oregon, and on trips to visit family in Colorado with her Dad. She loved clothes, and dreamed of being a fashion designer, a dancer, and a famous singer like Selena. In 2016, Em competed in the Miss Amazing Pageant in Nampa, Idaho–an aptly named experience that made her feel like a queen.

Em absolutely adored animals, and she got the chance to work at the Emmett Pet Adoption League animal shelter where she was tasked with cuddling baby kitties–pretty much a dream job!  She was also working on online courses as her health allowed in the hopes of someday becoming a vet tech.

Another highlight for Em was the day she was visited at her home in Middleton by several of the stars from the “ABC Family” TV show, “Kyle XY.”  Em was so excited to meet the celebrities, and she talked about it for years!

Em had an enormous family, and she loved every single one of her aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers, and sisters, and was always excited to see them or talk to them on the phone.  She could tell who you were by the sound of your voice, and not only was she able to remember who everyone was and to ask about how every single person in the family was doing, but she also remembered the names of every cat, dog, and any other pet, and would be sure to ask about them, too.

While she loved talking to all of her family and friends, Em talked to her Uncle Johnny nearly every day–and sometimes several times a day, and at all hours of the day.  He would almost always answer the phone, even when he was on the golf course, with a promise (that he kept) to call her back soon.

Em was always a little “boy crazy,” much to the dismay of her Dad and all her big brothers. She talked on the phone with her boyfriend, Frank Andrus, nearly every day, often for hours at a time, and he brought a special joy to her life. Em loved Frank very, very much.

Em has had so many wonderful people in her life who have helped her and brought joy to her life along the way.  Brian Jones from Idaho Vocational Rehabilitation was one of those people.  He helped her to get a job at Ridley’s in Middleton greeting customers, he coordinated her online courses, and helped her with many, many other things over the years. Even if he was “just doing his job,” he made a difference in one very special person’s life.

Em considered Stefani Minervini, her Service Coordinator from Unbefuddled, one of her best friends.  Stefani is as close to a miracle worker as one can be, and she did everything she could to find ways to try to make Em’s life just a little better.  We could task her with the seemingly impossible, and she would at the very least find answers, and more often than not she would find a way to make things happen.  Em’s life was made better simply because Stefani was a part of it.

Em survived over 30 surgeries and numerous illnesses, yet she somehow managed to keep her sunny outlook even after her world went dark and she lost her vision.  She was a superhero to those who knew and loved her, and she seemed nearly invincible, which is why her loss hit so hard and still came as a shock, even after everything she had gone through, and was still going through.  On the early morning of Wednesday, May 24th, at 12:11 a.m., after a short hospital stay and battle with pneumonia, Em left this world surrounded by many of her family and friends who loved her fiercely.  We find comfort in the knowledge that she is no longer in pain, and though sadly for us she isn’t just a phone call away anymore, her light and love will never leave us.

Em is survived by her Mother, Becki Wheeler; her Father and Step-Mother, Jim and Leonor Wheeler; her Sisters, Sarah Kipper and Tammy David; her Brothers and Sisters-in-Law, Jesse & Angelia Raynor, James & Shari Wheeler, John & Heather Wheeler, and Brian & Tara Wheeler; her Step-Sisters, Yvette, and Stephanie; her Step-Brothers, Michael and AJ; her Aunts and Uncles, Kay Hug, Gina & Mike Wolfe, Johnny & Debbie Wheeler, Ronny & Debbie Wheeler, and Billy Joe Wheeler; and a multitude of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

Em was preceded in death by her Grandmothers, Jean “Nany” Payne, and Margaret “Chata” Wheeler, her Grandfather, John Wheeler, her “Aunt Grandma,” Katherine Valdez, her Uncle, Keith Hug, her Nephew, Benjamin David, and her Cousin, Dominic Wheeler.

A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Mountain time, Monday, June 12, 2023, at Bowman Funeral Parlor, 10254 W. Carlton Bay Dr., Garden City.  We would love for those who are able to attend to wear purple and pink, Em’s favorite colors, in honor of her bright spirit.

To watch the memorial service, please visit: https://vimeo.com/834842315?share=copy

You are also invited to continue the celebration of Em’s life with us at her brother Brian’s home immediately following the service; address details will be provided at the service.




A memorial service will be held, 2:00 pm, Monday, June 12, 2023 at Bowman Funeral Parlor, 10254 W. Carlton Bay Dr., Garden City.

To watch the memorial service, please visit: https://vimeo.com/834842315?share=copy


  1. REPLY
    Frank Joseph Andrus says

    My name is Frank Andrus Emily was my best friend in the whole wide world no one will ever replace her she is light that shines throughout the world and she will be very deeply missed I’m so very sorry for your guys’s loss I truly enjoyed every minute I got to talk to her in this world is a smaller place without her but I know she is well and healed up in heaven and walking with God and her loved ones that were before her I Will get to see her on the other side

  2. REPLY
    Stefani says

    I had the joy of knowing Emily for close to three years, and from the moment I chatted with her on the phone, I knew we would be the best of friends. She always beamed with gladness when talking about her family and her animals. She knew everyone’s names (down to my guinea pigs). She asked about every person in my family and made them feel special and wanted. She was one of those people who when she told you she loved you, you knew she meant it.

    We all wanted to be tucked under her wing, and never leave.

    When she let me know that she lost her sight in both eyes, (what would have crumbled most of us), only made her breathe life into the unseen. She could have chosen anger or bitterness every day, but instead, she chose love. She stayed soft in a world that wasn’t always kind to her. She never complained, never missed a beat, always strong when the rest of us felt weak.

    It’s been 10 days without Emily on Earth, but ten days closer to us seeing her again. God be with her sweet family through it all, our friend (Jesus) that promises to stick closer than a brother. He is the man of sorrows, but also our very present joy. He isn’t far away, He’s very close. He daily gives us beauty for ashes, and Emily wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Since Emily’s passing, I have felt heaven drift closer. She is constantly letting me know we are not alone. She wasn’t the loudest person in the room, she never sought attention, but the echo of her life is the loudest I’ve experienced.

    For Emily… may we all stay soft, present, and unafraid. May we eat the cake, take the trip, pet the dogs, forgive an offense, allow our hearts to fall in love, press in, look at the stars, and tether our hearts together.

    Until we meet again.
    Stefani Joy

  3. REPLY
    Ray says

    I loved picking up Emma for Church and FHE. It was often the highlight of my week! We would sing along to her favorite songs as we drove. Emma brought so much light into my life by her sense of humor, playful teasing and optimistic outlook on life.

    One of my favorite memories of Emma is watching her bear her testimony in Church. She had a strong testimony of Jesus Christ and his atonement. I looked up to Emma and I still do. She was strong, brave and resilient.

    She was so fun! There was one time at the church gym I sat on an office chair and Emma towed me around behind her scooter and would turn sharp so it would whip me forward. She was so fun! Another time at FHE we were doing a raffle and one of the items was a pumpkin pie. Emma really wanted that pie. But, she didn’t have enough tickets. So her and I teamed up and outbid everyone else. We got that pie Emma! I still have a picture of us posing with the pie and all of our tickets.

    I love you Emma! I love how you called me often, I always looked forward to talking to you. I can’t wait until we can talk again. Until that day I will keep you in my thoughts and sing along to my favorite songs as I drive.

    Your friend Ray.

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