Colonel Edward I. Wexler, USAF Retired passed away on June 30, 2021, after a courageous 3-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 75 years old. He was a Savannah native who lived a truly global life. He traveled the world with the United States Air Force serving in many different countries, while always staying committed to being a public servant to his hometown. Col Wexler was a proud graduate of the 1964 class of Savannah High School. He went on to attend The Citadel (“Go Dogs”) where he graduated in 1968. After graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force. That same year he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Witt Wexler. Col Wexler served on active duty as a Munitions Maintenance Officer with assignments in Colorado and a three-year tour in Taiwan, Republic of China. While stationed at Tainan Air Base in Taiwan in the early 1970’s, they were blessed with the birth of their first child, Susan Dorothy.
Col Wexler finished out his tour and returned to Savannah in 1972. He joined the Georgia Air National Guard, 165th Airlift Wing as the first full-time Air Intelligence Officer in 1974. In 1978, he was promoted and reassigned as Commander of the 165th Mission Support Squadron. In the same year, they welcomed their second daughter, Sara Claire and in 1979 Sharon Ashley arrived. He received his Master’s degree in Business Management from Central Michigan University in 1981, and was a graduate of the USAF Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and the Air War College.
Col Wexler was deployed around the world in support of Air Force Missions including, Korea, Egypt, Rwanda, Panama, Curacao, Italy, England, and Germany. In 1992, he was deployed to Saudi Arabia supporting Operation Desert Storm. He served as Commander of the 165th Maintenance Group, leading personnel deployed to Southwest Georgia during the devastating floods of Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994. He served two years as chair of the ANG C-130 Logistics Council, representing over twenty-two C-130 wings on the national level. In 1996 he served as venue officer for the sailing event during the Centennial Olympic Games in Savannah. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in June 1997 and his team received the Air National Guard Team Excellence Award from the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. He became the Wing Vice Commander in 2000. In 2003, he was assigned to Headquarters Georgia Air National Guard in Atlanta.
He was a life member of the Air Force Association, serving as past-president of the Savannah Chapter AFA and as Georgia State past-president for three years. He also served three years as a National Director of the Air Force Association. He completed the two-year Leadership Savannah Program sponsored by the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. He was a Trustee Emeritus of the National Museum of the Mighty 8th Air Force. He served as president of the Georgia National Guard Family Support Foundation and vice president of the National Guard Association of Georgia. He was a trustee of the Georgia National Guard Insurance Trust, a life member of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States, and a perpetual member of the Military Order of World Wars.
His military decorations include: the Legion of Merit (oak leaf cluster), Meritorious Service Medal (two oak leaf clusters,) Air Force Commendation Medal (oak leaf cluster,) the Army Commendation Medal, the General Oglethorpe Distinctive Service Medal, and numerous other federal and state decorations. Col Wexler was selected as the 2017-2018 Veteran of the Year by the Chatham County Veterans Council. In 2018 he also received the Senior Citizens Inc. Life Well Lived Award.
He retired from the Air National Guard in 2006, having over 35 years of service. Following retirement, he fully immersed himself in service to his community, becoming the Director of the Combined Federal Campaign affiliated with the United Way of the Coastal Empire. He gave of his time to the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve; Rotary Club of Savannah West, secretary and 5-time Paul Harris Fellow; Star Base Savannah treasurer; and Center Court. He held positions at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 660; American Legion Post 135 (chaplain); Commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 320; president of the Savannah Military Officers Association; Life member of the Citadel Alumni Association; Savannah Area Citadel Club; Citadel Band of Gold participant; member of the Navy League; president of the Savannah Association of Flying Air National Guardsmen; 165th Airlift Wing Gray Eagles Society; past-president Honor Flight Savannah; and Jr. vice commander of the Veterans Council of Chatham County.
He was preceded in death by his loving wife of forty-two years Lt Col Mary Witt Wexler, USAF Nurse Corps (Ret.); his parents, Dr. William A. Wexler and Dorothy Levy Wexler, local civil rights activists and international advocates for Israel; and his brother, Savannah optometrist, Dr. Allan V. Wexler. With the passing of his wife Mary in 2009, he established a Memorial Scholarship awarded annually to exemplary nursing students at Georgia Southern. Colonel Wexler was a long-time member of Congregation Agudath Achim and Congregation Mickve Israel.
His legacy continues with his three daughters and their families: Susan and Eric Darling (Savannah) and their children Evelyn, and Elijah; Sara and Chaplain (Lt Col) Michael Bram (Los Angeles), and their children, Devorah, Chaya, Elisheva, Avigayil, and Moshe; and Sharon Ashley and Michael Walter (Denver) and their children, Simone and Corinna.
He is survived by his devoted wife of five years, Catherine Hopkins Wexler and her family. His brothers: Dr. Raymond H. (Debra) Wexler of Atlanta and niece, Dory (Ian) Palmer; Tamir (Roni) Wexler and family of Israel; his sister, Keren Lengy Wexler and family of Israel; Sisters-in-law: Gail Wexler of Savannah and nieces, Lyn (Tom) Alexander and Jan Wexler; and Barbara (Dr. William) Gustin of Savannah and nephews, Dr. James Wylie Gustin and Richard Donald Gustin.
Following his retirement, Col Wexler became an avid collector of scale model trains and was a board member of the Coastal Rail Buffs. He enjoyed showing off his train collection to his children and grandchildren. He enjoyed driving his 1987 Air Force Blue Corvette. Throughout his life, Col Wexler remained a loving patriarch to his family and a servant leader to his community.
Colonel Wexler and his family would like to thank the dedicated medical team that helped him through his cancer battle, of note, Dr. Paul Bradley; Dr. Mark Taylor; Victoria Finland, PA; Dr. Mark Murphy, Emory University Hospital and Hospice Savannah.
“To all my model train enthusiasts High Green and to all others Let’s have a beer!”
A graveside service will be held at Bonaventure Cemetery at 3:00pm on Friday July 2, 2021.
The family will be sitting shiva at 11 Lakewood Drive, Isle of Armstrong, on Sunday July 4, 2021 from 1-4pm.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to The Lt Col Mary Witt Wexler, USAF Ret. Memorial Nursing School Scholarship, Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus, C/O Julie Gerbsch, Asst. VP for Development, 11935 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31419 or The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, P.O. Box 1992, Savannah, GA 31402.