01/03/2016 2:04PM

Southern California racing official Wheeler dies


ARCADIA, Calif. – Richard Wheeler, a racing official at Southern California tracks for nearly 40 years, died Saturday after a recent illness, according to Santa Anita officials. He was 69.

Wheeler retired at the end of 2013 and was living in Monrovia, Calif., not far from Santa Anita, at the time of his death.

Born in Big Fork, Minn., Wheeler grew up in the San Diego area, according to good friend Kevin Colosi, clerk of the scales at Santa Anita. Wheeler worked as a groom for trainer Jerry Fanning at Southern California tracks before serving as an MP in Vietnam during the war.

Upon returning to the U.S., Wheeler began working in the racing department at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita in the 1970s. He rose to the position of assistant racing secretary at those tracks and was the racing secretary at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona before that venue ceased racing at that venue in 2013.

In addition to his official capacity, Wheeler was a racing fan. He and Colosi made annual trips to Saratoga each September from 2000 until last year.

Wheeler was preceded in death by his wife, Norma. Colosi said Wheeler will be cremated. There are no plans for a memorial service.