Labors of love

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Adra Wheeler got her first job straight of college and worked it for 35 years before retiring.

But retirement didn’t last long.

Almost immediately after retiring from the Indiana Bell Telephone Co., Wheeler was hired by St. Luke’s Methodist United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, where she attended services and had been a volunteer. She worked there until retiring in 2020.

Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, the 81-year-old Marquette resident might never have retired. That’s how much she enjoyed – or rather, enjoys — working.

“Loved it,” she said of her two jobs. “Loved it, loved it, loved it. Never absent one day, not one, at any of those jobs. You just wanted to be there and help.”

Although her employment status has changed, Wheeler’s enthusiasm for work hasn’t. One of Marquette’s newest residents, she is arguably the Indianapolis senior living community’s busiest.

Wheeler moved in five weeks ago and has been on the go ever since. She not only participates in myriad activities with residents but also volunteers to assist them and staff in any way she can.

“I’m brand new but love it,” Wheeler said. “I’ve been trying to go to all kinds of different things. I think you can just work 24/7. There are so many wonderful things going on here. I’ve just gone to different groups and said, ‘If you need any help, holler. I’m doing nothing.’ I’m used to working 24/7.

“If (prospective residents) are here, I’m glad to answer questions or take them on tours. We’ve had a lot of people apply (to live) here.”

A lifelong Indianapolis resident, Wheeler was part of North Central High School’s first graduating class in 1958 (“That’s my claim to fame,” she said) and graduated from Ball State University in 1962 with a business degree. She was hired by Indiana Bell almost immediately and loved virtually every minute of her 35 years with the company.

“All my jobs there were supervisory,” Wheeler said. “They used to hire college graduates for easy jobs, and then we got promoted or they got rid of you, and so I had 35 years of all kinds of (different roles). Every year I had a new assignment.”

After retiring from Indiana Bell, she was hired by St. Luke’s in Indianapolis, where she still attends services. Her responsibilities ran the gamut.

“I did every single thing except preach, and there was no way I could do that,” she said, laughing. “At church, you do everything. I spent lots of time with hospitals and people dying, all kinds of problems. (St. Luke’s is) a wonderful, wonderful place, and we are huge. Lots of good goes on.”

Wheeler, who was divorced many years ago (she calls it “the only negative” experience in her life), moved into her apartment at Marquette five weeks ago after having been on the waiting list for several years. She instantly made friends.

“She is a social butterfly,” said Sara Green, Marquette’s sales councilor. “Lots and lots of people know Adra.”

Wheeler has one daughter, Amy Roetgerman, who lives in Carmel, and one grandson, who attends Carmel High School.

“I’m lucky,” Wheeler said. “I’m a lucky girl.”


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