As Bob Wheeler was headed toward retirement after 25 years as manager of Lodi's General Mills plant, a "life coach" from General Mills made two key points.
"You've got your own life, your wife has her own life. And, you have your own life together," the coach told Wheeler.
That was the good news. But the life coach also issued a warning: "You need people to stimulate your mind and not get bored."
The 62-year-old Wheeler remains busy doing just that. He still has stock in General Mills despite retiring last year, so he checks the stock listings on his computer every morning.
Wheeler retired on Aug. 31, 2007 after more than two decades of success as plant manager for one of Lodi's largest employers. He also enjoys a legacy of community involvement and service that included the construction of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club building and renovation of Hutchins Street Square. He was inducted into the Lodi Hall of Fame in 1999.
In retirement, Wheeler remains busy.
"We are all individuals," Wheeler said. "You have to know yourself. You have to make sure you have something to do when you get up in the morning."
For wife Dianne, it's going straight to the golf course, where she plays five days a week.
Bob Wheeler only hits the links three times a week. He remains active in the community, takes a lot of vacations with his wife and keeps in touch with the many friends he's made over the years. Developing relationships with key people was important in his career at General Mills, and it continues to be important in retirement.
For example, Bill Mowery, plant manager for 20 years at the General Mills plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has visited Wheeler each of the past four years at his home, which backs up to the eighth tee at the Woodbridge Golf and Country Club. Each time, they spent five days playing golf together and reminisce about old times, Wheeler said.
And one of the most valuable connections Wheeler has made was through his participation in a summer course called the Stanford Executive Program in 1986. The course involved executives from all walks of life, such as banking, airlines, the military and, yes, plant managers of manufacturing plants from all over the world.
Not only did Wheeler learn some valuable lessons from the curriculum and his classmates - all of whom were as successful as he was - but he developed the connections to be able to call on them for advice whenever an issue came up at General Mills.
He attends class reunions frequently - they're held all over the world, so they provide a nice starting point for a vacation trip.
In September, he's going to the Stanford Executive Program reunion in Boston. The timing is outstanding, he said, because he will be able to watch his nephew, Blake Wheeler, who just signed a contract with the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League.
Through his connections, he has met and received autographed Wheaties boxes from Tiger Woods, Jerry Rice and a women's Olympic gymnastics team.
With his two children grown, Wheeler lives with his wife and their sprightly 6-year-old Yorkshire terrier in their spacious house with a view of the eighth tee from their back porch.
Wheeler remains active, serving on the board of KVIE Channel 6, the Sacramento PBS station. He was president last year. He also serves on the board and several committees with Community Bank of San Joaquin, and he raises money for the Boy Scouts.
And occasionally, someone will call him asking for help, and he usually says yes.
Since his retirement, the Wheelers have traveled to such places as the Bahamas, to Michigan to see Wheeler's family, and to Georgia to find the first place he and his wife lived together. That home - with half a refrigerator and no oven - was still there. They also visited his old Army base in Georgia.
The future of General MillsEven though Lodi's General Mills plant is older than some of its other buildings throughout the country, Bob Wheeler believes the Lodi plant is safe from closure, at least for now.
"We were actually growing rather than declining," Wheeler said.
The downside is that it costs more to do business on the West Coast, especially in California. However, with gas prices at more than $4 per gallon, Lodi is an outstanding location because they use a lot less gas transporting General Mills products south to San Diego and north to Seattle, Wheeler said.
- News-Sentinel staff
An avid Detroit Lions football fan, Bob Wheeler takes his son, Bobby, to a Lions road game once a year. This year, they're going to Houston. They've hit the road for eight or nine years, all to different locations.
Wheeler doesn't have the same allegiance to Detroit Tigers baseball, although he has ordered the Tigers' season package on his Direct TV.
One of the most enjoyable days Wheeler had at General Mills was on Super Bowl Sunday in 1988, when the Washington Redskins defeated the Denver Broncos in San Diego.
Workers at the Lodi plant created thousands of boxes of Wheaties - half of them stating that the Redskins won the Super Bowl and the other half saying the Broncos won.
Wheaties vans delivered the proper boxes to the stadium and the major hotels. People all over the country were baffled about how General Mills could possibly know which team was going to win, Wheeler said. Johnny Carson even talked about it. Wheeler has both boxes stored somewhere in his house, but he's not sure where.
While he loves his sports, Wheeler just loves to follow politics. He watches political talk shows on cable TV and reads vociferously on the Internet.
"I'm fascinated by this presidential election," he said.
"On the business side, I'm a conservative Republican, but on the social side, I'm much more liberal," Wheeler said.
He doesn't mind talking politics with people who disagree with him, as long as they give their position based on facts rather than emotion.
The Wheelers have two grown children, Carrie Wheeler, a chiropractor in Sacramento, and Bobby, who works in outside sales at Oak Ridge Winery and is head junior varsity basketball coach at Lodi High School; and two grandsons.