Loyd Wheaton, a longtime island businessman, died on Tuesday, Nov. 12. He was 81 years old.
His death, caused by a brain aneurysm, occurred in Seattle at Swedish Hospital, said his daughter, Lori Frost.
Wheaton was married to Kathy Wheaton, and owned with her a number of local businesses, most recently Kathy’s Corner, the nursery to the south of town. Prior to Kathy’s Corner, the couple owned the Ace Hardware store and Vashon Farm and Garden in the building that is now Pandora’s Box.
“He was more interested in growing things than selling toilet rings,” Kathy Wheaton said in an interview with The Beachcomber. “Nothing gave him more pleasure than going out and building a patio, a fence, planting a tree, [so] the beauty he was creating would live on well after he was gone.”
That mindset is, in part, what led him to start Kathy’s Corner with her in 1991. Over the years, Wheaton painstakingly propagated Japanese Maples, smoke bush and barberries, which can be found all over the island.
He was also known for his slate patios and metalworking and for building all sorts of structures across the island. He taught and mentored many.
“There was not a problem he couldn’t solve,” said Laura Hall, who works at Kathy’s Corner. “He was extremely humble, kind and strong, and worked until the day before he died.”
Wheaton and Kathy met in the 1970s after Kathy, a young teenager with her own child, started caring for his five girls. They married and together they had one more child for a total of seven.
From welding and metalworking to growing and harvesting vegetables and roses, Wheaton guided people of all generations.
Yet he kept his profile low and was happy that I was the person in the limelight, his widow said; he just wanted to be in the garden with his dogs.
“He was fiercely loyal to his family and his four-legged family, especially,” Kathy said. “He just adopted Bindi from Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP), I think to keep me company when he was gone.”
Wheaton had seen his fair share of hardships over the years. Several break-ins at Kathy’s Corner, resulting in a loss of hundreds of dollars in plants, cash and equipment; the illnesses Kathy suffered; and his own debilitating illness called dystonia, which causes the muscles to contract uncontrollably, resulting in abnormal postures in his last few years.
Still, he was active and involved, whether it was hacking through blackberries, laying patio stone, or delicately pruning roses even with a bent body.
Wheaton was born Aug. 12, 1938, around Gray’s Harbor, where he had to walk two hours to hop a bus that took two more hours to travel to a one-room schoolhouse for grades one through eight. He enjoyed hunting elk with his brother more than going to school.
He worked for many years with Standard Oil in the early days on the what is now the Tramp Harbor Dock, pumping fuel out of the ships’ tanks to deliver to the community on Vashon. When the opportunity presented itself in 1971 to open up a garden and feed store, he took it, supplying plants and feed for the island.
Wheaton grew vegetables on a half-acre of land and took them to the Food Bank for years, driving his own truck when dropping off hay and feed and fuel for the community.
Wheaton mused with his wife that he wanted to die working on one of his regular client’s gardens that he helped create. That is in fact what happened. He worked up to the day before he died, driving his truck and leading his crew.
Wheaton is survived by his wife, Kathy, their seven children, Darleen, Charleen, Julie, Lori, Kelli, Ginny, and Donna; his nephew, Jimmy, and his siblings, Floyd, Cora, Verta and Zeke. He was preceded in death by his mother, father and sister, Floyd, Betty and Vi Wheaton.
At the request of Wheaton, there will be no service. The best way to honor his memory is to plant something beautiful and watch it grow, said Kathy.