An American River College student committed suicide a day before the start of the spring semester.
John ‘Chance’ Wheeler was taking photography classes during the Fall 2014 semester at ARC.
Wheeler posted a suicide note on Facebook in the form of a poem. In the post, Wheeler first cited his physical condition and pain as reasons for his depression.
A diabetic, Wheeler had also recently been diagnosed with neuropathy, a condition where nerves that carry messages to the brain and spinal cord from the rest of the body are damaged or diseased.
Wheeler said in the note that he was “tired of being constant pain,” and “tired of living in a body that betrays me.”
“He found it hard to walk, and just in case he would be in a wheelchair, so that he wouldn’t fall down or anything,” said his daughter, Menolly Wheeler, 14.
Wheeler shared his passion for video games, comic books and anime with his three daughters, and also took them to conventions.
“He was your typical 80’s nerd. So non-judgemental, accepted everybody,” said Aubrey Ford, a high school friend of Wheeler’s who organized a wake for his friend.
The wake was held Friday at the Citrus Heights Community Center. Friends and family recounted their fond memories of Wheeler at the event.
Many who attended Wheeler’s wake were friends he had made during his involvement with a live shadow-cast production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Martin Tucker, a close friend of Wheeler’s from ARC and “Rocky,” performed the eulogy for Wheeler.
“I wrote Chance’s eulogy in a ‘Death Note’ book. He would appreciate the irony,” said Tucker to scattered laughs.
‘Death Note’ is a series of books that featured a protagonist who had the ability to murder people by just writing their names down in a spiritually-possessed notebook that he owned.
Tucker went on to describe Wheeler as a caring person with a sardonic, dry sense of humor.
“He would make jokes, and then he would be sitting there like waiting for you to get it, and when that ‘aha’ moment would hit, he would nod at you,” said Tucker.
Wheeler’s friend, Star Hansen, said “There was a lot to him. A renaissance man, an incredible artist, very loving, always doing something for someone else. He had a dark and demented sense of humor which was sweet.”
A number of Wheeler’s friends described his willingness to help others as being the type of person who would take the shirt off of his own back if he thought someone else needed it.
Wheeler was working on a stop motion film prior to his death. Figurines that he was using for his feature were given away to friends and family who wanted something to remember him by.
During her speech during the wake, Wheeler’s youngest daughter, Bobbi Wheeler, said, “I hear all these different stories about stuff, and I’m like, ‘you know why he didn’t do that with me? I’m 13.’”
The photography that Wheeler did for the dance program at ARC was done for free.
“His pictures was always 10 times more artistic than the guy who took your passport photo,” said ARC dance instructor Sunny Smith.
Contributing reporting by Kameron Schmid and John Ferrannini