Respect (noun) – a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited upon their abilities, qualities or achievements
I learned today of the passing of a man for whom I had much respect. William “Bill” Wheat aka Mr. Mooney or Mr. Terrible flew west today to join his Maker as well his family and friends who went on before him.
The first time I met Bill I was new on the job at Mooney Airplane Company. I was settling in at my desk when I hear this querulous voice say, “Well, if you would just shut up and listen to me, I could tell you how to fix this problem.”
I nearly fell out of my chair. That’s not how you were supposed to talk to customers! Who was this crazy old man? Surely the customer would call and complain and he would be fired on the spot. But the customer didn’t because this crazy man was THE Bill Wheat. People called from all over the world to talk to Bill and glean some of his knowledge. If he wasn’t gruff with him, they worried about him.
Bill was the first one to make me feel at home at Mooney. And he was the one to stick me with the nickname Giggles. ☺️ What can I say? I giggle when I’m nervous.
In his late 70s/early 80s even back then he was always the first one on site at the plant where we built the world’s fastest single engine aircraft. When the processes I needed to use on the computer bogged down the network, I started coming in at 4 a.m. Yep, Bill was always there before me.
If you asked how he was, the answer was always “Terrible “. He told me once if he ever said he was good or fine to call the paramedics immediately because something was clearly wrong.
On those quiet mornings while my computer ground away generating the multiple work orders needed to build our planes, Bill would tell me stories. The man had a history you had to admire and respect.
When Al Mooney first opened the Mooney plant in Kerrville, Texas , Bill Wheat was there. He used to live onsite and act as night security. Bill told me he was also a test pilot for Al Mooney.
One day when Bill went to Al’s office to tell everything that was wrong with the plane, Al slammed his hands down on the desk, looked Bill square in the eyes and said, “Wheat, I’m sick and tired of you finding things wrong with my airplanes. Effective now you are an Engineer. Fix them!”
His boyhood stories were even more impressive. I kick myself now for not writing them down as he shared them with me.
Bill Wheat is a big part of Mooney history and known and loved around the world. Eccentric, hilarious and a genius many times over, there is no replacement for him.
Bill didn’t work at Mooney on Fridays so every Thursday morning he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out his “So Happy It’s Thursday” button and pinned it to his shirt. Yep, it was a bright yellow button that proudly proclaimed S.H.I.T. Management might frown but wha my could they do? This was Mr. Wheat. He had forgotten more about our airplanes than many would ever know.
It dawns on me as I write this that Bill left us today, a Thursday. Bill, I know you are happy to have flown away from the pain and confusion that plagued these last years and I know you are soaring high but I want you to know that those of you left here on the ground will miss you.
I’ll be watching the sky for you, waiting for you to waggle your wings.
With all respect, always.