Paul Lee Wiley, age 80, passed away peacefully on Friday, May 20, 2022. Lee was born in Sisseton, South Dakota to Paul Noble and Jean Muriel Wiley on January 27, 1942.
When Lee was 2 years old and while his father was actively serving in the Navy, Lee and his mother moved from South Dakota to San Benito to join his grandparents. Lee grew up supporting the Greyhounds’ purple and gold. He attended San Benito schools and graduated from San Benito High School in 1960 where he served as the student body President his senior year and an active DeMolay, achieving its highest honor of Chevalier. After high school, Lee attended The University of Texas at Austin where he majored in Accounting and graduated in 1964 with his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. In 1965, he married the love of his life and “the best person he’s ever met,” Drenda Anne Johnson. Following his undergraduate graduation, Lee remained in Austin where he attended the University of Texas School of Law. Upon graduation in 1967, Lee accepted a position with Skelly Oil Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he served as one of the company’s tax attorneys. After a couple of years, Lee, Drenda, and their first born child returned to the Valley where he worked for Sternberg, Skaggs, and Koppel Law Firm in Harlingen. He and his first law partner, Jim Hale, eventually opened their own private practice where Lee mostly specialized in real estate and family law. Prior to branching out on his own with the Law Office of Paul Lee Wiley where his emphasis switched to bankruptcy law, he also worked for several years in partnership with Randy Fleuriet and many other local attorneys. Throughout his 40 year career, Lee was respected as a reliable and honorable man and attorney.
Lee’s love for sports and athletics started at an early age. He loved sharing stories of listening to professional baseball games on the radio as a young boy in San Benito. His favorite all-time movies - which he watched countless times - were “The Natural” and “Field of Dreams”. The nostalgic movies would often prompt Lee to fondly reminisce, recount, and share other boyhood memories and connections with anyone who cared to listen. In addition to baseball, Lee was also passionate about the sport of basketball. He was a four-year letterman in baseball and a three-year letterman in basketball for the San Benito Greyhounds, making all-district in baseball for three years and all-district in basketball for two years. His 6-foot-3 frame on the pitching rubber was imposing to hitters and a barrier to opposing players on the basketball court which helped him to be a standout in each sport. At the age of 14, Lee discovered his love of golf while playing with his dad and his father’s fellow CP&L co-workers at Tony Butler Golf Course at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings. He was hooked from that initial introduction and played the game well throughout his life. Lee won the Rio Grande Valley Amateur Championship in 1981 and the Life Begins at 40 Golf Tournament in 2003. Lee was the 2005 McAllen Country Club Member-Guest Champion as well as a club champion and a senior club champion at both the Harlingen Country Club and Treasure Hills Country Club.
Lee’s love for the game of golf and all the values it brings to life in general led him to found and help coordinate the junior golf program at Tony Butler Golf Course from 1978 until 1983. The program had more than 100 participants, ranging in age from seven years old to high school. Lee eventually established the South Texas Junior Golf Classic in 1983, and served as its chair for 25 years. The tournament still continues today, nearly 40 years later. Lee ignited and fueled the passion for golf in many young boys and girls throughout the Valley and beyond. The number of kids who were inspired by Lee to move on to play both collegiate and professional golf is immeasurable. He would also take great pride in those that chose to love the game for a lifetime, as he did.
Lee was extremely involved in youth sports throughout his life, as both a father and a grandfather. He coached his children’s baseball, basketball, and softball teams, and served as the President of the National Bronco League. He was always available to help with scorekeeping, announcing, marking fields, conducting team practices, working concessions, or any other sport-related duties. Lee was always willing to help in any possible way as active participation in his children’s and grandchildren’s lives was of utmost importance to him. Lee was a tireless advocate for the youth of the Rio Grande Valley, as he was never satisfied with the local news coverage. He routinely called the local news outlets to make sure they were highlighting and spotlighting the successes of local athletes when they achieved local, statewide, and national recognition. As a lifelong Valley resident, he recognized the Rio Grande Valley as an underserved area, and he worked tirelessly to promote and ensure the youth received the support and recognition they were due.
In addition to sports and athletics, community involvement and academic excellence were always extremely important to Lee. He was involved in the Harlingen Rotary Club, and he served as President of the local United Way. Lee served on the Board of Directors of the Harlingen Country Club for six years, and he was on the Life Begins at 40 Board of Directors for many years, having served as one of its past Presidents. Lee also served as President for both Bonham Elementary School and Harlingen High School’s Parent-Teacher Associations. In addition, Lee served as a School Board Member for the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, and he valued and consistently stressed the importance of education as a pathway to lifelong success and opportunity. As a former member of the HCISD School Board, he was honored to have the privilege and opportunity to present high school diplomas to his two children and three granddaughters, who all attended Harlingen public schools.
On a personal level, Lee was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Harlingen, and he would occasionally worship at the First United Methodist Church of La Feria with his granddaughters. To say Lee loved all Texas Longhorn athletics was an understatement. He was a die-hard Longhorn fan, and he particularly enjoyed tailgating in the family’s motorhome on football game days. Lee also enjoyed sitting outside surrounded by nature. In 1975, the home that Lee and Drenda have shared for the past 47 years was completed. He would spend much of his time there watching “his birds”, feeding “his catfish”, and playing with his dogs. Lee was a true “dog person” and was never without a 4-legged family member or two by his side. Throughout the years, he found comfort and companionship from a host of dogs, with names too numerous to list. They all had their quirks and idiosyncrasies, but Lee loved them all the same.
Not only was Lee a dedicated father, but his love and devotion also carried over to his grandchildren. Lee was involved in babysitting duties, and he brightened many of the grandkids’ mornings with Shipley donut or Whataburger breakfast deliveries on the multiple occasions when they would spend the night with their grandparents. Lee also consistently made himself available to support his grandchildren in all of their endeavors and was frequently in attendance at various school programs, orchestra and choir concerts, scout and sporting events, and family trips. Lee and Drenda were also gracious enough to open their home to host the weddings of two of their granddaughters and the invited guests.
If you knew or met Lee, you knew you had a friend for life. It didn’t matter where you came from or what you did for a living, he treated you with respect without regard to status or title. Lee lived his life based on the principles of being honest, demonstrating fairness, and always working hard - impactful life lessons for us all.
Lee was preceded in death by his daughter Sarah Jean Wiley, his parents Paul and Jean Wiley, his grandparents Walter and Ella Voigt, and most recently, his beloved dog Raider.
Lee is survived by his wife of 56 years, Drenda Anne Johnson Wiley; his brother, Donald Wiley (Thea); his brother-in-law, Jay Johnson (Kay); his two children: Dianna Wiley Apfel (Greg) and David Wiley (Candy); his six grandchildren: Kaitlynn Wiley Edwards (Zach), Mackenzie Wiley Lopez (Rene), Kendra Wiley, Reid Apfel, Zachary Apfel, and Tyce Apfel; his two great-grandchildren: McKenna Lopez and Thomas Lee Edwards; and his beloved dog, Jack.
Lee is also survived by several nieces and nephews as well as many friends and honorary family members - Terri Galvan and husband Carlos Arriaga, Arlie Tolifson and late wife Vicki, Chris Wicker, Buddy and Jeanie Kalencki, Lee and Estela Villarreal, and the Life Begins at 40 Golf Tournament Directors.
The Wileys would like to extend a special thank you to the nurses, caregivers, and staff of Greater Valley Hospice and the Windsor Atrium. The family is deeply appreciative of the care, dignity, and respect bestowed upon Lee - our husband, our brother, our brother-in-law, our uncle, our Dad, our Papa - and his family members during the time he was under your charge.
The family will receive relatives and friends Friday, August 5, 2022 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Buck Ashcraft San Benito Funeral Home. A Celebration of Life Memorial Service will be held Saturday, August 6, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church of La Feria with a private family burial preceding the memorial service.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Humane Society of Harlingen, 1106 Markowsky Ave., Harlingen, Texas 78550 (www.hshtx.org) or the charity of your choice.
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Rio Grande Valley Humane Society at Harlingen
1106 Markowsky Ave., Harlingen TX 78550