Rayola Howell Wheelwright, age 93, passed away peacefully in the family home in Richland, Washington, on March 25, 2019. She was born to William Alfred and Alicia Naomi Howell on May 21, 1925, in Moreland, Idaho. Rayola was raised in Fish Haven, Idaho, the fifth of six children and last surviving sibling. After high school graduation, she worked at the Utah State Capitol. She was prompted to quit her job and move to Rexburg, Idaho, where she met the love of her life, Earl “J” Wheelwright, while obtaining a degree in elementary education at Rick’s College (now Brigham Young University-Idaho). Rayola and Earl were married June 10, 1947, in the Salt Lake Temple by Spencer W. Kimball. As Earl worked to complete his undergraduate degree and then a PhD, Rayola helped support the family by typing dissertations and theses. In 1955, the family, which now included three children, moved to Richland, Washington, where Earl accepted a position at the Hanford site. In 1962, when land was available, they helped form a corporation with other families and developed their own subdivision where they lovingly built their current home and raised their six children amongst choice friends.
Rayola was known for baking delicious bread, scones and cinnamon rolls. She was a skilled seamstress and sewed beautiful clothing for her entire family. Rayola loved her children dearly and would type letters to them weekly using a manual typewriter and carbons when they left the home and moved away. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she served in many callings including teacher, Primary president and genealogy specialist. For years, she worked in the local genealogy library doing her own family research and helping others to find their ancestors. When personal home computers first became available, Rayola purchased an IBM to assist with her genealogical documentation and taught herself how to use it along with various programs. She traveled around the entire Columbia Basin assisting others with their genealogical needs.
Rayola was always very supportive of Earl’s professional work responsibilities and Church leadership callings. In 1982, they began serving in the Seattle Temple as ordinance workers. They drove four hours each way twice a month and later each weekend to complete their assignments. In 1994, they were called to serve in the New Jersey Morristown mission. During their 18 month mission, Rayola worked closely with the mission president on special projects as Earl served as first counselor in the mission presidency. Her leadership experience, organizational abilities and computer skills, along with her love for the missionaries were assets to the entire mission.
When the Columbia River Temple was built, Rayola served as assistant to the matron and then as temple matron while Earl served as first counselor and later as president of the temple. This six-year temple assignment was a time of great happiness for Rayola as she and Earl worked closely together serving our Heavenly Father full-time and making many new friends. She loved and had a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and tried to be an example of Him in her service to others.
Rayola was preceded in death by daughter-in-law Sandi Wheelwright; great-grandchildren Clarissa Wheelwright, Cody and William Phipps; her parents; brothers Geren, Vearlee, Donovan and Leon Howell; and sister Shirla Fry. Rayola was a devoted wife and mother. Her greatest joy was her sweetheart Earl and their posterity. She leaves behind children: Dean Wheelwright, Carolyn Wheelwright, Ross (Ruth Ann) Wheelwright, Scott Wheelwright, Paul (Laura) Wheelwright and Marie Wheelwright Loosle along with 18 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren.
The family will meet with friends Sunday, April 7, 2019, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Einan’s, 915 Bypass Highway Building H in Richland.
Funeral services will be held at 1:00 pm on Monday, April 8, 2019, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located at 1720 Thayer in Richland with viewing before from 11:30 am to 12:45 pm. Interment will be at Sunset Memorial Gardens, 915 Bypass Highway, Richland.
The family would like to express their deep gratitude to the many friends, neighbors, and ward members, as well as Rayola’s medical professionals for their many acts of kindness and service during her final years, especially the many Visiting Angel caregivers who provided compassionate and loving assistance in her home.