Local radio personality passes away

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

Longtime radio personality Patti Wheeler passed away Feb. 18.

Wheeler was born in Wilsonville, and much of her family still lives in Shelby County. Wheeler was known for her radio program, “Patti and the Doc,” and later, “Patti and Dollar Bill,” on WZZK in Birmingham.

“I came to Birmingham in ‘79, and she and Doc had just started working on the radio station,” “Dollar” Bill Lawson said. “In 1984, I started working with her at WZZK. I was on middays, and it was Patty and the Doc back then. Doc retired about 1992. I just went in the seat for him. I’d been filling in for him when he was sick. (Patti and I) worked together every morning until about three years ago.”

Lawson, an Alabaster resident, said Wheeler was “officially 39,” even though she was 71 when she passed away.

“She and her mom made an art form about lying about their ages,” he said, laughing. “For a few years, her mother was younger than she was.”

After retiring in November 2008, Wheeler moved to Florida to be closer to her mother, but she returned to the Birmingham area about a year ago.

“We’d go to lunch every couple of weeks. We always stayed in contact,” Lawson said. “We were lucky to be thrust together as working partners at the radio station. We were friends. I worked with her for 30 years and never had an argument, but maybe because I was scared to death of her.

“She was a brilliant person, but led a crazy lifestyle,” he added. “She loved to party, and was kind of sailor-mouthed. She was a free spirit.”

Patti Wheeler’s first cousin, Roger Wheeler, agreed.

“You couldn’t get nothing on her,” Roger Wheeler said, laughing. “I think Dollar Bill was a little bit scared of her.”

Roger Wheeler, who currently lives in Montevallo, was the mayor of Alabaster for 12 years.

“She always said she was the first cousin of Alabaster,” he said.

Roger Wheeler said Patti Wheeler had a photographic memory, and she was just like her father, who was the first county engineer of Shelby County.

“They moved around a good bit. She was in and out,” he said. “She graduated from the University of Alabama as the top female in journalism.

“They were a lot of fun to be around, her and her dad,” he added. “She’s just a special person. What you saw was what you got. She wasn’t no put-on. She was just Patti.”