Wayne Wiley was a successful businessman, but his family say he was also a country boy, nature lover.
“He could wear a suit and tie and be comfortable, but he wore overalls around the house,” said Sharon, his wife of 27 years.
Mr Wiley, a tireless champion of his local community, died on May 9 at the age of 82.
“He’s always been a huge booster for Hillsboro and Jefferson County,” said his daughter, Mary Beth Stanfield of Hillsboro. “He was proud of this region and he taught us to be.”
Mr. Wiley grew up on the family dairy farm in Hillsboro. He married a high school classmate in 1958 and they had three children before divorcing in 1986.
“He wanted to be a printer and went to work for one,” Mary Beth said. “But when he asked for a raise and the guy didn’t give him one, he said, ‘I have to get a new job. So he got along with a team of surveyors and loved it.
In the mid-1970s, Mr. Wiley started Associated Land Surveyors in Hillsboro.
“My brothers were free workers,” Mary Beth laughed. “He told them that he was paying them in experience and that he was learning a trade. They did surveys on weekends; then dad did all the drawing, all the food for the week in the basement of Hillsboro Title Co.
In 1989, Mr. Wiley was driving a tractor when its wheels skidded off the side of the road and the tractor overturned, pinning him underneath.
“He managed to pick it up twice, but couldn’t get it up high enough for his legs to come off,” Mary Beth said.
A Little League baseball team practicing nearby came to her rescue.
“Charlie Bieser found him, and he ordered the boys to use their bats to lift the tractor and Charlie dragged him outside,” Mary Beth said.
One of the boys on the team was David Bieser, who was to become Mr Wiley’s stepson when he and Sharon married in 1995.
Mr. Wiley helped found the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce in 1991.
One of the main priorities was to see the continuation of the highway. 21 to Hillsboro, which had been stalled in Shady Valley for some time, Sharon said.
“All we heard at family gatherings was how bad Route 21 was,” Mary Beth said. “When Frank Roland’s wife was killed on the freeway. 21, dad said, ‘That’s it. We have to do it,” and they formed the committee.
With Mr. Wiley at its head, the newly formed highway. 21 Task Force kicked into high gear, conferring with lawmakers, engaging with the East-West Gateway Council and garnering 1,600 signatures on a petition.
The inauguration of the final stretch of the highway took place in December 2008, four days after Mr. Wiley underwent knee replacement surgery.
“He climbed the ladder to the set they were using for a stage, made his remarks and came down,” Sharon said. “Then he said, ‘Well, it’s done’ and went home to rest.”
After his retirement, Mr. Wiley built an amateur blacksmith shop.
“He got so good that people started asking him to do things,” Sharon said. “There are projects all over town, but the biggest is the fancy ironwork at the Russell House.”
Mr. Wiley was involved in just about everything that happened in Hillsboro.
“He pulled Santa on the tractor in the Christmas parade,” Sharon said. “He loved helping people, mentoring people at all the different clubs he was involved with.”
Mr. Wiley served for 15 years as president of the Armed Forces Ceremony held at the Chamber’s annual homecoming in Hillsboro.
“We hope to continue in his honor,” said chamber treasurer Mandy Alley. “He had a lasting impact wherever he went.”
He also loved to travel.
“Going out west was our favorite,” Sharon said. “It was nothing for us to take off in the motorhome. He preferred this to flying so he could meet people along the way.
Sharon said she was grateful for how she and her husband merged their families so seamlessly.
“Wayne loved all children without prejudice,” she said. “I found out he had marked his belongings with little notes saying who gets what, and there was no difference.”
Mr. Wiley had a deep faith.
“He would get up in the middle of the night and read his devotional and then sit and pray for all of us for hours,” his daughter said.
Mr Wiley had endured several health issues over the years – back pain from the tractor accident, heart attack in 2020, kidney problems – before being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. In March, he underwent surgery to repair a ruptured artery in his nose and never felt completely well afterwards.
“I think he knew,” Sharon said. “He kept telling me, ‘I’m sick of it.’ He was ready.
He died in hospital, surrounded by his family.
“Sharon had to make the decision to let him go,” Mary Beth said. “And we stayed there and spent time with him, talking about the good old days and all that we had learned from him.”
Mr. Wiley was buried in his suspenders, in a coffin made from salvaged barn wood. His funeral procession was led by two grandsons in overalls, driving his beloved tractors, driving a piper and the hearse to the cemetery.
“I know we are all sinners,” Sharon said. “But if there was anyone close to perfection, it would be him.”
“Life Story,” published Saturdays on the Leader Publications website, focuses on an individual’s impact on their community.