He was no ordinary Joe. He was Navy veteran of the Arctic convoys whose experiences of wartime Liverpool spurred him to sign up aged 17.

He was also a captain of industry, a thoughtful man and great talker full of countless stories, from navigating a powerboat team to victory to tangoing in Buenos Aires.

But most of all, Joe Wheeler was a family man. A father of seven and a devoted husband, who was proud of his service, his achievements, and his place in the town.

Petersfield lost one of its leading men last month when the 98-year-old Royal British Legion stalwart died, aged 98.

If there was one word that typified everything about Joe, it was loyalty. He often spoke of his experiences in the Royal Navy and increasingly found fellowship in the RBL.

He was a stalwart at RBL events and would later talk to Petersfield Scouts about his wartime experiences on Merseyside and the significance of Poppy Day.

The lifelong Liverpool fan was born close to Anfield in the suburb of West Derby with four to a bed in a house with no electricity and only one gaslight.

Joe Wheeler Petersfield RBL Tribute PIC1
Joe Wheeler was just 17 when he joined the Royal Navy. He later joined the Royal British Legion. (Family of Joe Wheeler)

Life was hard but his parents would always try to maintain standards and father never left the house without his hat and silver-topped cane. He watched from a hill as bombs fell on his city and remembers putting out street fires during The Blitz.

He was evacuated to North Wales and became living proof that it’s possible to slip on a banana skin – the last he saw during the war years – as he broke a leg after doing that in 1939. He was carried to a doctor’s surgery and remained a “spoiled patient” at Caernarfon Cottage Hospital for several weeks.

His stories were legendary and one of his best came after being demobbed in 1946. He decided to nip into the pub after finding a huge queue for civilian clothing and upon returning, was thrilled to buy a suit that fitted perfectly. But no-one shared his enthusiasm, as Joe didn’t realise it was bright green on account of being colourblind.

Joe became a father at 24 and had five children with his first wife, while also becoming a Conservative councillor and holding office in the party for 25 years.

Following the death of his first wife, Joe married Pearl in 1980 and became a father again at 56, throwing himself enthusiastically into parenting, especially when his wife went to night school and university to retrain as a teacher.

Joe Wheeler Petersfield RBL Tribute PIC2
There were standard bearers at his funeral in recognition of his service in the forces and to the Petersfield Royal British Legion. (Graham Parsons)

He was incredibly hard-working and often had multiple jobs that included spells as an office boy, company director and head of a consultancy firm with clients in Chile, Italy and Argentina. Indeed, one of his strangest jobs was sourcing a prosthetic arm for the latter’s future vice-president while raising two young children.

“Encourage your children: tell them all is not lost and that they will learn something new every day,” he wrote to The Times when Covid forced school closures, showcasing his ceaseless “indomitable spirit”.

His work took him across the world and he always travelled with the St Christopher gifted by Pearl now worn by their youngest son, Luke.

His family thought he was invincible: he survived a world war, personal tragedies, major operations and an angry alligator in Texas.

An anaesthetist called him a “remarkable gentleman”, summing him up perfectly.