Dr. Thomas Adrian Wheat

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On Feb. 2, 2015, the world became a little darker and Heaven even brighter with the passing of an extraordinary man, Thomas Adrian Wheat.

Adrian was born on June 8, 1945, in Lewisburg, to a country doctor, Thomas Adrian Wheat, who founded a hospital there, and his wife, Frances Bridges Wheat. Adrian's paternal grandparents were Dr Luther Wheat and Mattie Pugh Wheat, and his maternal grandparents were William Brantley Bridges and Carrie Threadgill Bridges, and later, after the early death of his father, his beloved stepfather was Sam W. Bobo.

At a very young age, Adrian would make rounds to his father's patients' homes and was exposed to a role model of selflessly helping others. Adrian continued throughout his life to follow his father's example of kindness, generosity, and selflessness. Adrian grew up in Shelbyville. He graduated from the University of Tennessee and the University of Tennessee Medical School and thus forever his blood flowed orange. He served 27 years in the United States Army as a surgeon, including nine months in a battlefield hospital during the First Gulf War. He retired with the rank of Colonel, having served as Chief of Surgery at the McDonald Army Hospital at Fort Eustis, Va.

Woven throughout his Tennessee childhood was his keen interest in the Civil War. He combined his knowledge of medicine and his interest in the Civil War to become one of the top authorities in the nation on Civil War medicine. He volunteered thousands of hours to the cause of the study of Civil War medicine. He was a founding member of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and served on its Board of Directors. He also was a founding member of the Society of Civil War Surgeons and vice president of its Board of Directors. He was particularly interested in the Yorktown Civil War campaign. He published the book "A Guide to Civil War Yorktown" and served on the sesquicentennial committee. Adrian willingly and graciously shared his knowledge of Civil War medicine with hundreds of groups. He worked with every National Park Service Civil War battlefield site in the United States in interpreting the war to the visitors as well as helping to train the staff. Adrian's wit, charm and expertise can be seen in his Banner Lecture on Civil War medicine, which is available on the Virginia Historical Society's website.

He married the love of his life, Marla, 30 years ago this December, thus acquiring the titles of husband and stepfather to Courtney and Brittney. Marla and Adrian's marriage was a daily testament to the marriage vows of honoring and cherishing each other. Adrian and Marla were residents of Gloucester Point and Yorktown before they moved to Richmond in 2012. No title -- historian, lecturer, surgeon, re-enactor -- did he love more than that of "Poppy" to his three adored grandchildren. He shamelessly spoiled them with his time, love, and ability to weave a fantasy world for them with his great imagination and humor.

He is survived by his wife, Marla Martin Wheat; his stepdaughters, Courtney Hewitt Griffith and Brittney Hewitt Van Deusen, and his son-in-law, Mark Van Deusen. He is also survived by his beloved grandchildren, Jackson Griffith, Marla Margaret Van Deusen, and Winifred Wheat Van Deusen. Other survivors include three sisters and their husbands, Dr. Judy Wheat Wood and Dr. William Chadwick Wood, Katherine Jean Wheat and Russell Stevens, Rosemary Bobo and David S. Curtis, as well as nieces and nephews, Col. Sam and Ann Curtis, Dr. Claire Somervell Curtis, Dr. Carrie Wood Waller and Benjamin Waller, Rachel and Ron Striewig, and Dawn and Sydney Pickett.

A celebration of Adrian's life was held on Thursday, Feb. 12, at St. James's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like to suggest donations to: The Society of Civil War Surgeons (www.civilwarsurgeons.org) or the Richmond SPCA (www.richmondspca.org).