Joe Wheeler considers himself privileged to have been homeschooled in Latin America by his mother, Barbara Leininger Wheeler, for fourteen of the first sixteen years of his life. She, a stage-performing elocutionist in her own right, bequeathed her passion for emotive stories to him. His second mentor into story was Dr. Walter Utt, legendary history professor at Pacific Union College in California’s Napa Valley. History, to Dr. Utt, was Story: life stories of remarkable people. Wheeler would later go on to earn a Masters in History from Pacific Union College, a Masters in English from Sacramento State University, and a Ph.D. in English (History of Ideas concentration) from Vanderbilt University, and teach for 34 years in junior high, high school, junior college, college, and university—all the while infecting his students with his own passion for Story.
Wheeler was later blindsided by a 1992 event, when, according to him, “God booted me out of the classroom into a full-time ministry of stories.” Out of it have come 98 books and counting, 82 of them being story anthologies. Sixteen publishing houses have made this possible. Not just any stories, but rather stories that move the reader so deeply that they prove all but impossible to forget; and the stories incorporate values worth living by. Great Stories Remembered received The Seal of Quality (Family Television’s highest honor), and Christmas in My Heart (now the longest-running Christmas story series in America) was chosen a Finalist for Christian Booksellers Association’s Gold Medallion award. Wheeler doesn’t take any credit for his books’ 1,500,000 sales, saying, “It’s all a God thing—I’m just humbled that He stoops down to partner with the least of His children.”