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Philip A. Wheeler, 81, of Hebron, beloved husband of Carol (Russell) Wheeler, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, November 1, 2022. Born in Hartford on September 30, 1941, he was the son of the late Donald Wheeler and Roberta Fuller. Phil was a graduate of East Hartford High School and was a veteran of the U.S. Army.

Early in his career, Phil worked at Colt Firearms where he became involved in union leadership. He was known for his vision, building worker power, and using political power strategically. The focus of his work with the UAW and other community initiatives was to make the lives of others better; believing fair wages, safe working conditions, equity and social justice, and affordable healthcare were essential to a thriving democracy. Phil’s leadership of a four-year strike at Colts ended with a tremendous victory for the workers, a $13 million settlement and partial ownership of the company. Phil’s keen negotiating skills led to many strong union contracts during the 17 years he was director. Under Phil’s leadership, UAW Region 9A more than doubled in membership, welcoming new sectors into the union, like public sector workers in Puerto Rico and academic workers in New York. Phil spearheaded many progressive political organizations, first in the Legislative Electoral Action Program (LEAP), and later in helping to found the Working Families Party.

Phil is regarded by many as one of the greatest labor leaders of our time – greatly admired by the members, young and old, from traditional sectors and by those who were newer to the movement. He was tough, but kind – and was ahead of the times in hiring and promoting women to important positions in the Region. He was known for telling stories of union fights in a way that was very entertaining, but more importantly, inspired the listener to be courageous and engage in action. Phil would often say, “We never lose, sometimes it just takes a while for us to win.”

Phil retired as Regional Director of United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 9A, but continued his advocacy for working people beyond his retirement. He showed up – whether it was a picket line, a political campaign, or a lobby day at the Capitol. Phil was always present, and always willing to share his insights on how to move an issue forward.

In addition to his loving wife Carol, he will be forever missed by his daughter, Joelyn Leon and husband Nelson of East Hampton; his adored grandchildren, Alexia and Noah Philip Leon; sister, Sandra (Wheeler) Benson; half-sister Cheryl Lamont; sisters-in-law Diane (Bruce) Brissette, Janet (Marty) Duggan, and Teryl Russell; brother-in-law Ron Russell; long-time friend Bob (Diane) Madore; and many nieces, nephews, friends and colleagues. Philip was predeceased by his sister, Donna Weir and her husband Leverett and his brother-in-law, James Russell.

Family and friends are invited to attend Phil’s Celebration of Life service on Thursday, December 8 from 3-5 p.m. at the Student Center Alumni Hall of Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley Street, New Britain. Donations in Phil’s memory may be made to the American Parkinson Disease Association, P.O. Box 61420, Staten Island, NY 10306 or online at www.apdaparkinson.org. The D’Esopo Funeral Chapel, Wethersfield has been entrusted with the arrangements. To share a memory of Phil, please visit www.desopofuneralchapel.com.

Philip A. Wheeler, 81, of Hebron, beloved husband of Carol (Russell) Wheeler, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, November 1, 2022. Born in Hartford on September 30, 1941, he was the son of the late Donald Wheeler and Roberta Fuller. Phil was a graduate of East Hartford High School and was a veteran of the U.S. Army.  Early in his career, Phil worked at Colt Firearms where he became involved in union leadership. He was known for his vision, building worker power, and using political power strategically. The