McHenry County Board member Charles “Chuck” Wheeler, the first Black man to serve on the board, died overnight Wednesday to Thursday at the age of 63.
Wheeler's wife, Susan, and stepdaughter, Ashley Muller, confirmed his death in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon, adding that he "will be missed dearly."
Susan Wheeler said that the family learned of his death Thursday morning, but declined to comment further.
As a County Board member, vice chairman of the McHenry County GOP and 14th Congressional District Trump delegate candidate, Wheeler was someone who held strong conservative values and always stood up for what he believed in, County Clerk Joe Tirio said in an interview Thursday afternoon.
Wheeler was a colleague and a "good friend" whose death "came out of left field," Tirio said.
"He was not afraid to fight for what he believed was right and was always a strong voice for the people," Tirio said. "It is sad to see him go, very sad. ... He wasn't your typical politician, he really enjoyed serving people in his community."
Wheeler was a McHenry County Chamber of Commerce member and the business owner of a health insurance agency, according to a biography published by the McHenry County Republican Party.
Wheeler served as the party's vice chairman and previously as its treasurer, according to a questionnaire he submitted to the Northwest Herald.
Before moving to McHenry and running for the McHenry County Board, Wheeler served as a village trustee in Glendale Heights for eight years. He has been a Republican precinct committeeman in McHenry and Bloomingdale townships.
Voters elected Wheeler to the County Board in November 2013, making him the first Black man to ever hold a board seat in McHenry County, according to reporting by the Northwest Herald.
Fellow board member Jeffrey Thorsen said he learned of the news when Wheeler's wife responded to a few texts he had sent to Wheeler's cellphone Thursday morning.
"He was a great man, he was a stellar member of our board and I am just beside myself," Thorsen said. "[Wheeler] was a rock, he was somebody you could depend on."
Thorsen and Wheeler both were members of the County Board's Law and Government/Liquor Committee. Wheeler also was a member of the Public Health and Community Services Committee, according to the county's website.
"He was a good man," Thorsen said. "Probably one of the best."
In reflecting on his time getting to know Wheeler, Tirio recalled a parade in celebration of Harvard's Milk Days when Wheeler had recently had surgery on his knee, but still wanted to attend the parade even as he was wheelchair-bound.
"[We] took turns pushing him through the parade with his leg sticking out," Tirio said, laughing at the memory. "And he was having fun, we were all having fun. ... And he would have done the same thing for any one of us."
The loss of Wheeler will surely be felt throughout the McHenry County community and beyond, Tirio said.
“He had a great intuition for people and for their character,” he said. “So many ways that he will be missed, really, he was just an outstanding fellow.”