Wheldon cherished as great man

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was remembered as a great race driver – but more importantly, as a wonderful father, husband, friend and man – at a public memorial service Sunday, Oct. 23 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

A large crowd, including Wheldon's wife, Susie, and family, gathered to cherish the life of Wheldon, who suffered fatal injuries in a racing accident Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Speakers shared thoughts, memories, laughter and tears about 2005 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Wheldon, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2005 and 2011. Many anecdotes during the 90-minute ceremony centered on Wheldon's skill as a driver, zest for life and practical jokes, love of family and friends, and obsession with neatness.

"I love him like a brother," said former teammate Tony Kanaan, a close friend of Wheldon. "I'm grateful for the time we got to spend with him on Earth. Although that time here is done, our time together is not over. We have our memories. We have our feelings. And one day we will be together again.

"For that reason, I'm not saying goodbye to Dan. Not today. And not ever. Goodbye is final, and our friendship won't end. So for now, I'm simply saying I'll see you later. I love you."

Said two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti, another former teammate and close friend: "At first, Dan was pretty much the little brother we didn't want. And now, we would do anything to have him back. We miss you, D-Dub."

Other speakers included team owner and former teammate Bryan Herta, Wheldon's representatives Adrian Sussman and Mickey Ryan, INDYCAR Chief Executive Officer Randy Bernard, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Belskus, Target Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Mike Hull, friends and associates Mike Kitchel, Benito Santos and Misty Gibbs, INDYCAR Ministry Director and Chaplain Bob Hills, and masters of ceremonies Bob Jenkins and Marty Reid.

Musical performances also were poignant during the one-hour ceremony. Country music superstar Reba McEntire sang "If I Had Only Known" at the start of the service, while rising stars The Band Perry performed "Amazing Grace." Country superstar Garth Brooks closed the ceremony with an acoustic version of his hit "The Dance."

Also performing were the Indianapolis Children's Choir and the "Indianapolis 500" Gordon Pipers bagpipe group, an Indianapolis Motor Speedway tradition during Wheldon's beloved Month of May.

Numerous still photos and video clips from throughout Wheldon's life captured his skill, flair, spirit and warmth during the ceremony, including a video of thanks from his family.

Decorating the stage were the Borg-Warner Trophy awarded to the winner of the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis 500 winner's wreath, two bottles of milk signifying Wheldon's two Indy 500 victories, the Indy Racing League championship trophy that Wheldon won in 2005 and a 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series car painted in the St. George's cross of Wheldon's native England.

Other tributes to Wheldon included Franchitti, Kanaan and Herta wearing Wheldon's 2005 championship ring and Franchitti wearing white shoes in honor of Wheldon, a noted aficionado of style, fashion and shoes.

Fans were able to participate by signing banners in Conseco Fieldhouse, leaving condolences and memories.

The Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund has been established for the financial security of his family. The public can make contributions to the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund at:

Fifth Third Private Bank

Attn: Dan Wheldon Family Trust

251 North Illinois St.

Suite 1000

Indianapolis, IN 46204

All of Fifth Third Bank's Indianapolis branches also are accepting contributions in person, which will be routed to the account.

In lieu of flowers, friends and fans also can choose to make a donation to the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund or the Alzheimer's Association, a cause close to his heart. For more details, visit www.alz.org or www.danwheldonmemorial.com, a GoDaddy.com-created memorial site, which includes a Facebook link to leave condolences and remembrances and a career photo retrospective.

Those wishing to send their sympathy and condolences to the Wheldon family can address letters to:

The Wheldons

9600 Koger Blvd N, Ste. 105

St. Petersburg, FL 33702

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