The following is an excerpt from an interview with Joe Wheeler, conducted by Kimberly Luste Maran of the AdventistReview, on November 10, 2010.
KM: How did you get the title Keeper of the Story?
JW: It’s interesting how I got that name. I dedicated a Christmas in My Heart 12 book to Dr. [James] Dobson, and a huge portion of Christmas in My Heart’s success has to be tied to Focus on the Family. And I remember when I went down to Colorado Springs, Dobson said, “Oh, Joe Wheeler. What’s he here for?”
The staff knew what I was doing—I was there for a general assembly. I got up and started reading the book’s dedication. People told me later that it was really funny to watch his face because I was halfway through before he realized it was for him. As they all stood to applaud, he looked across at me and said, “When did you write that?”
I said, “A year ago.” I could see the wheels turning in his head because he and I had been at each other’s throats . . . people told me that I was one of the few persons in the world who dared to tell him that when he was zigging he should have been zagging.
At any rate, Dobson was to the point where he wouldn’t even dictate certain letters to me, because he was so angry about me calling him.
I continued, “Well, you know, Jim, philosophical differences of opinion shouldn’t have anything to do with personal friendship.”
And he said, “No, Joe. That’s what makes friends. And that’s what makes a long-lasting friendship.” So I count the 40-some letters I have from him as evidence of the fact that he is a big enough man to, in essence, forgive me for disagreeing with him.
Later, on one of the occasions when I read a story at Focus on the Family—with a book signing afterward—Dobson remarked, “Oh, Joe Wheeler—America’s Keeper of the Story.”
I thought, Well, that’s interesting. I contacted one of the Focus on the Family vice presidents and asked, “Did the doctor mean that I could use that title?”
She replied, “I don’t think so. He doesn’t do endorsements of any type.”
“Oh, well,” I said, “I was just curious.”
About three weeks later, however, she called back. She said, “I can’t believe it, but I asked the doc about that, and he said, ‘I would be honored if Joe wants to use that in all of his books, and whatever he wants to use it for.’ ”
So I have felt ever since then, that if there is anything that would ever be said about me after I’m gone, I would be very comfortable with “Keeper of the Story.”