Kathryn “Katie” Anita Irvine Wheeler was born February 27, 1920 in the Irvine Family Ranch House, located on the 110,000 acre Irvine Ranch in Orange County. Her parents were Kathryn Helena Irvine (1894-1920) and Frank Lillard (1889-1967). Her mother died four days after giving birth, of pneumonia due to complications from childbirth. Katie was the eldest granddaughter of Irvine Company founder James Irvine II, or James Harvey Irvine. She was raised by her grandfather on the Irvine Ranch and also at the Irvine home in San Francisco.
At the age of fifteen, Katie met Charles Stetson Wheeler III (Charlie), a UC Berkeley student and the son of a renowned San Francisco attorney. They were married six years later, in 1941. They had three children: Nita Connelly, James Irvine Wheeler (1947-1996), and Helene Huyler. Their son James Irvine Wheeler died of a heart attack at age 49.
From 1953-1977, Charlie Wheeler managed the cattle operations on the Irvine Ranch and at the Irvine family owned Flying D Ranch in Montana. He was also Corporate Secretary of the Irvine Company. He died in 1993.
From 1950-1997, Katie was on the board of the James Irvine Foundation, her grandfather’s nonprofit foundation. She was the Foundation’s longest-serving director and remained an honorary member of the board until her death in 2003. This Foundation was created by James Irvine in 1937 to benefit the people of California and has provided many grants for our youth, the arts, education, and statewide research and information.
The James Irvine Foundation donated $1 Million for the new Katie Wheeler Library which opened February 23, 2008 recognizing Katie’s long service on the board.
Katie was involved with many organizations such as the Orange County Center for the Performing Arts, Pacific Symphony, South Coast Repertory Theater, Planned Parenthood, Human Options and the Golden Gate Kindergarten in San Francisco.
Katie Wheeler died October 4, 2003.
Click here to see pictures of Katie Wheeler.