It took twelve years to accomplish, but perseverance paid off.
Members of the school’s TEMPO club, a parent organization for the school’s music programs, have long wanted to honor a special woman for all the support she gave to their sons and daughters. Janice Wheeler, mother of OAHS band director Rob Wheeler, passed away 12 years ago, shortly after Rob graduated from Oliver Ames.
TEMPO members chose to plant a tree in her behalf, but had to wait year after year, because of school construction. Finally, they were given the go-ahead to plant the tree this year, and they chose a tulip tree, which was planted last week right outside the entrance to the school’s music department.
Then, this Wednesday, they gathered all the TEMPO parents from Janice’s era, and held a dedication ceremony in her behalf.
“All of our kids have graduated and a new generation has come along. It seemed like it would never end, but here we are,” said George Farrell, former president of TEMPO.
In his dedication, Farrell said that he and others decided to plant a tulip tree because of its grand stature, which would be a reminder of what a true TEMPO parent was.
“Kids can come into the music area, and they will be welcomed just as they were by Janice,” he said.
Other TEMPO parents said that they will never forget how much Janice supported Rob, who was a star trumpet player when he attended Oliver Ames. They also said that they never worried when their children traveled with the music department, because Janice would keep strict tabs on all the kids, making sure they did everything they were supposed to.
“She was wonderful. She did everything she could for the kids, and she’s sorely missed,” said Mary Ippolito, whose son and daughter were in the band and color guard.
Rob Wheeler said he was honored and grateful for the tribute. He also said his mother would be would have loved the new music facility, which includes the high school’s new performing arts center.
“My mother loved music and the department, and it’s great to see the tree here. She’ll be remembered for a long time,” he said.
Brian Hoffman , who served as TEMPO president when Rob was a student, said that Janice would no doubt be proud of all of Rob’s accomplishments. The multiple bands have won an impressive array of awards under his leadership, and the OA Marching Band will be participating in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., next Monday.
“He’s a remarkable educator who has really connected with the kids,” he said.