Margo Wheeler, vice president of association affairs for the National Association of REALTORS®, was lauded this weekend as a “leader who raised people up,” “a people connector,” and an “opportunity provider.” The tributes lit up social media as REALTORS® around the country learned of Wheeler’s death due to cancer early Saturday.
“Margo was the epitome of honor and service—the poster child of what a REALTOR® should be—and one of the most inspirational people I have ever known,” said NAR President Kenny Parcell, who appointed Wheeler to the vice president role. “Anyone who knew Margo loved her, and her passion for our industry motivated us all to be better leaders and volunteers. I feel blessed to have known her not only as my vice president but as my friend. She will never be forgotten.”
In memos sent to association staff and REALTOR® association leaders over the weekend, NAR CEO Bob Goldberg said Wheeler served with “gracious devotion” and was a “source of guidance and strength.”
Service to Her Country and Profession
Wheeler was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who cherished her faith and family as the driving forces in her life. A native of Philadelphia, she joined the Army at age 20 and worked her way up through the ranks, retiring as a first sergeant. Throughout her Army career, she was always conscious of setting a good example not only for her own two children but also the recruits she trained. “I couldn’t be one of the guys,” she recalled in a recent conversation with REALTOR® Magazine. “As a woman of color—as a woman, period, at that time—I had to stand taller. I had to make sure that I had their respect at all times.”
Over 20 years in the Army, Wheeler moved 10 times, finally landing in Tacoma, Wash. Consequently, when she started her real estate career in 1993, she relished the idea of easing her clients’ transitions, particularly military and first-time buyers.
“Very few individuals have made such a positive impact in the lives of so many as Margo,” said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, where Wheeler was a broker. “Her presence at a gathering or meeting elevated the conversation and each of us individually.”
In addition to serving NAR for the past 23 years, Wheeler served in leadership roles for the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, the Residential Real Estate Council and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. She was president of Washington REALTORS® in 2017. And in 2020, she was inducted into the REALTORS® Political Action Committee Hall of Fame.
Giving Others a Seat at the Table
Wheeler’s passion of late, she told REALTOR® Magazine, was to mentor others and pass the torch to a new set of leaders. In 2021 and 2022, she served on NAR’s Leadership Academy Advisory Group, helping to identify and train future association leaders.
In one of her last official acts as an NAR leader, Wheeler was in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 17 to install Charmaine Hickey as 2023 president of the Florida Women’s Council of REALTORS®. At the installation, Hickey later said, Wheeler didn’t even want her own bio read. “This day is all about you,” she told Hickey.
Wheeler was national president of the Women’s Council in 2011 and often credited WCR with jumpstarting her leadership journey.
“When I became a REALTOR®, I didn’t see a lot of women in leadership other than in the Women’s Council,” she said. When another Black woman, Maxine Jennings of California, ascended to the national presidency of WCR in 2001, “it gave me the belief that there was a place for me.” WCR also gave Wheeler a support network. She cited leaders such as Deborah Tatum Gilmore of Georgia, JoAnne Poole of Maryland, and Gail Hartnett of Idaho as friends and mentors who helped her become the leader she was.
“As a leader,” she once said, “it’s more important to ask questions that will move us forward than to have all the answers.”
Wheeler was installed as 2023 vice president of association affairs at NAR NXT in Orlando, Fla., last November. Although she did not get to finish her term, “Margo’s legacy and impact will live on in our hearts and within our association forever,” Goldberg said. “The entire National Association of REALTORS® family mourns the loss of our incredible leader.”
Among the tributes to Wheeler online were messages from Washington REALTORS® who served alongside her.
“Margo, you taught us all so much about love, generosity and living life to the fullest,” said NAR Regional Vice President Dale Chumbley, an agent from Vancouver, Wash.
“Thank you for your service to our country, our entire REALTOR® family and for being such a dear friend. I love you and look forward to when we see each other again.”
Yakima County, Wash., broker Cheri Daniels, whom Wheeler installed as 2018 president of the Washington Women’s Council of REALTORS®, said Wheeler was a “shining example of how God wants us to be. … She literally pulled me from the crowd and gave me a seat in the front row. She introduced me to past presidents and other great leaders and told me she had my back and would always be there for me. And she was.”