Kotzie (Mary Grace) Wheeler, 76, passed away peacefully on December 27, 2018. The daughter of Ruth and Ralph Wheeler, she was born in 1942 in Wichita, Kansas, while her father was serving as a U.S. Army Air Corps chaplain in the Aleutian Islands. Her parents knew many Tlingit Indian people during their time in Alaska, and the name Kotzie was said to be Tlingit for Little Princess. In any case, Kotzie was very proud of her Tlingit connection!
Her family arrived in Arizona, at Williams Air Force Base, in 1947, where Kotzie started school and skipped second grade because she was such a good reader. This was a good thing as she was always tall for her age. She graduated from Chandler High School in 1959, from Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri, in 1961, and from ASU in 1964. Her first job was as a mid-year replacement for a high school English teacher in Douglas, Arizona. She then taught in Alta Loma, California and worked at the Honnold Library for the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, California. Realizing that she needed a library science degree to get ahead in that profession, she went to the Simmons College School of Library and Information Science in Boston for her MLS. After a stint in the public library in Las Cruces, New Mexico, she found her calling as an elementary school librarian in the Scottsdale school district, serving first at Paiute and then at Pueblo. This job was a great fit for Kotzie, who had a true love of children and children’s literature. She also loved to dress for holidays, and her collection of holiday vests, jewelry, and socks always went over well with the children.
Kotzie was a long-time member of the Friends of Mexican Art (FOMA). As a board member she worked actively to arrange and publicize their fund-raising house tours. She also collected lions, loved dogs, and devoured mysteries (which she called crimmies).
Kotzie was self-effacing (to a fault), tender-hearted, friendly, and thoughtful. Whether your interest was peacocks or penguins, you’d be apt to get a card or a small gift or a cartoon or a clipping about them. She would send complimentary notes to people’s supervisors. Kotzie’s last year was spent at Westminster Village. Her favorite charity was St. Vincent de Paul, which so reflected her values of love, kindness and sharing. She is preceded in death by her parents, Ralph and Ruth, and by her brothers, Hank and John (Beano). Left to cherish her memory is her sister Margaret.
Kotzie’s memorial service will be at the chapel of Valley Presbyterian Church, 6947 E. McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley, on Saturday, February 16 at 10 AM. Please wear happy colors as that’s what Kotzie loved. Donations in her memory may be made to St. Vincent de Paul, P.O. Box 13600, Phoenix, AZ 85002 or www.stvincentdepaul.net.Print Obituary & Condolences