FORMER Priest in Charge at St Ambrose Church, Westbourne, the Rev Graham John Wheeler, has died at the age of 78.

Born in Hertford just before World War Two, Mr Wheeler, and his sisters Susan and Janet, who were born shortly after, were not evacuated to the countryside during the war. Their father worked in local government and was an ARP warden, and some of their mother's family were accommodated in their three bedroom home.

After the war the family moved to the Isle of Wight and then to St Albans, where Graham attended the grammar school until the age of 18 before completing his National Service and then joining the Civil Service in the Inland Revenue department at Cardiff.

"Eventually he recognised the job wasn't for him and decided to enrol as a student at St Michael's Theological College in Llandaff and was ordained deacon at Llandaff Cathedral in 1966, and priested there the following year. His first curacy was in Cardiff in 1966 until 1971 where he met his good friend Margaret with whom he corresponded for many years," said his sister Janet Reddish.

Mr Wheeler then transferred to Cadoxton Juxta Barry in 1971 where he took on most of the responsibilities of the parish due to the ill health of the incumbent.

He came back to Cardiff in 1975 where he enrolled as a mature student at the university and gained a bachelor's degree in divinity.

In 1979 Mr Wheeler was first appointed curate at Highcliffe, then New Milton. In 1990 he was Priest in Charge at St Ambrose Church in Westbourne until 2006.

The vicarage was somewhat vast for both his needs and his belongings. Around that time his parents moved to Durley Chine and so Graham was able to better furnish his home with familiar items no longer needed from their move.

"Graham was a very pastoral priest and lived for his calling and his congregation. He hardly ever took a holiday, although he was always promising himself cultural trips, and did make a trip with a group to the Holy Land. He had a good sense of humour, perhaps rather droll. He was well thought of in all his parishes and remembered fondly in his Westbourne community, where he still did his shopping during his retirement. He never took kindly to modern technology, preferring not to own a TV, mobile phone or computer, preferring to interact with people rather than machines. He was well read and loved the library," said Janet.

Mr Wheeler passed away suddenly on June 20 and his funeral was held at St Stephen's Church, Bournemouth on July 14, with donations going to the National Trust.