James T. Whitaker was a true Southern gentleman with a kind heart, cute smile and big laugh, his daughter Donna Riley said.
Born in Mississippi, he was a “social butterfly” who in his early years was affectionately known as “Gabby” and later as “Jumper," she said.
Whitaker taught his children to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, work hard and treat everyone well.
“Dad was the most forgiving person you ever saw,” Riley said. “Regardless of the hardships and challenges he faced in his life, he never held a grudge. He only focused on the good in people.”
Whitaker, 74, of Hobart, was an 18-year employee of Scot Lad Foods and 30-year member of Automobile Mechanics Union Local 701. A master craftsman and mechanic, Whitaker also worked at various trucking companies and repaired the refrigeration on railroad cars.
“My brother learned so much from my dad working on projects together,” Riley said.
“He was always someone you could count on, he would drop what he was doing no matter what he was doing at that time to help anyone at any time, no matter what the reason,” his son, Don Whitaker, said. “He had a heart of gold and a great personality and was loved by everyone he touched.”
Whitaker spent Saturdays having breakfast with his son’s family and Sundays with Riley.
Riley’s husband, Joe, introduced Whitaker to golf, a game he loved, getting two holes-in-one.
Married 25 years to his wife Joan who preceded him in death, the couple met when Whitaker worked for United Airlines. She became lost when applying for a stewardess job and met him. They dated six months and eloped.
“He will be missed for his good advice, his outstanding personality, his sense of humor and that big laugh which would light up a room,” Riley said.