James Willhite Obituary
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In Memory of

James Willhite

January 29, 1927 - July 7, 2014
Obituary
Biography

When someone is identified as a natural leader, certain images come to mind. First thoughts are of a person who is no-nonsense, tough-minded, dedicated and disciplined, James F. Willhite is that person. He will be remembered as being highly organized, practical and realistic. He was a person who always carried a strong sense of duty with him throughout his life. Possessed with traditional “old school” morals, Jim was an individual who clearly communicated to those around him just who he was and what he was all about. Everyone acquainted with Jim knew him as a well-respected man who was a stable force in his community.        Jim was born to Clarence and Mary Jane Willhite in Louisville, Kentucky. Jim was raised in on his grandmother's tobacco farm. Jim had three brothers and one sister, Chet, Clarence, Kenny and Doris.       Jim was always good at following directions and meeting his schedules, whether they were set by his teachers or were self-imposed. James’s personal motto could well have been, “Do it right the first time.” He graduated from Hiseville High School in Barren County, Kentucky on May 3, 1945. He graduated in a class of 6 students. Their class motto was "Love, Labor and Laugh" and the class colors were red and white.       His sense of duty helped lead him into the military during WWII. Jim was proud of his service to his country as a member of...
When someone is identified as a natural leader, certain images come to mind. First thoughts are of a person who is no-nonsense, tough-minded, dedicated and disciplined, James F. Willhite is that person. He will be remembered as being highly organized, practical and realistic. He was a person who always carried a strong sense of duty with him throughout his life. Possessed with traditional “old school” morals, Jim was an individual who clearly communicated to those around him just who he was and what he was all about. Everyone acquainted with Jim knew him as a well-respected man who was a stable force in his community.

       Jim was born to Clarence and Mary Jane Willhite in Louisville, Kentucky. Jim was raised in on his grandmother's tobacco farm. Jim had three brothers and one sister, Chet, Clarence, Kenny and Doris.

      Jim was always good at following directions and meeting his schedules, whether they were set by his teachers or were self-imposed. James’s personal motto could well have been, “Do it right the first time.” He graduated from Hiseville High School in Barren County, Kentucky on May 3, 1945. He graduated in a class of 6 students. Their class motto was "Love, Labor and Laugh" and the class colors were red and white.

      His sense of duty helped lead him into the military during WWII. Jim was proud of his service to his country as a member of the U. S. Army. He was stationed in Iran, was part of the occupying forces in Italy.

After the war, he moved to Detroit Michigan to work with his brothers. There he met the love of his life, Virginia Hibbard, at the Cunningham’s Drug Store lunch counter. Jim and Virginia were married on Sept. 4, 1948. An objective and conscientious individual, James reveled in the security of his family. One of Jim’s most endearing qualities was his uncanny ability to remember important dates and anniversaries, and his unending enthusiasm for celebrations.

      Jim was ever watchful of his children. He maintained a firm hand in their upbringing, enforcing rules as needed to ensure that his children were properly raised. Jim and Virginia were blessed with six children, two son's, David and Michael and four daughters, Sharon, Barbara, Rosemary and Patricia. They were also blessed with twelve grandchildren.

     Jim's primary occupation was in the Detroit House of Corrections. Being a hard worker who praised efficiency, he was a person who quickly made decisions based on the information available. This allowed him to work his way up to Superintendent of Maintenance. Jim was a team player who certainly lived out the motto of “give me a job, and I will get it done.”

       Jim's favorite past time was playing cards. He was seen most evenings playing pinochle, canasta, euchre or bridge with neighbors and friends. His proficiency in cards led him to be the dealer at several Casino Nights. He was also willing to share his interest by teaching his children and grandchildren a wide variety of games.

      During his younger years, Jim was a member of the "Sea Devils" skin diving club. They designed and built their own version of a submarine for underwater exploration. They improved the design boasting a more powerful headlight, more speed and steering that was designed to allow the pilot to have one hand free to use a spear gun.

Jim, Virginia and their son’s built the tri-level Michigan farm house by hand. They never went into debt during the construction as it was only built it as he could afford to. Years later, Jim also converted the barn into a single level home with a loft, which was easier for Virginia to get around in.

      A civic-minded person, Jim was usually ready to jump in and help with community activities. He was a member of many senior groups, including serving on committees for the Hudson Senior Center and in the Mainlands retirement community. He never missed an event or luncheon and never met a pancake breakfast he didn’t like. He was the greeter at Rosie’s Clam Shack and Karen’s Uptown Cafe. He entertained many a customer with his life stories and anecdotal wisdom.

      When it came time to travel or take a vacation, Jim used his scheduling expertise to make sure everyone and everything was ready to go. He loved to take his family on Sunday drives and summer vacations. One such vacation entailed, driving six children across county in a station wagon, pulling a pop-up-camper. Jim and Virginia traveled the world extensively together, anywhere Virginia wanted to go, they went. They traveled most of the United States including Alaska and Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, 7 European countries and cruised to many Caribbean Islands. Jim also traveled to Tahiti and cruised the South Pacific.

       Jim was a true gentleman, never allowing a lady to open door. He was caring and generous man, with both his time and knowledge. He was the most amazing whistler and could whistle the most elaborate tunes for hours on end. He was a wonderful cook and passed along the secret of his famous biscuits and gravy to the family. He loved ice cream and adventures, whether it was learning to square dance, parasailing, or flying an Ultra-light plane. Always up to the challenge, on his 75th birthday, he went skydiving, his 80th was hot air ballooning and his 85th was zip-lining. Jim was also a lover of animals. His favorite was Ginger his chihuahua. They were best friends for over fifteen years.

      James passed away on July 7, 2014 at home in Pinellas Park, Florida with his daughter Rosie, by his side. He fought, finally succumbing to bladder cancer. Jim is survived by 6 children' Sharon (Paul) Jones, Barbara (Bill) Machnis, David (Karen) Willhite, Rosemary "Rosie" Slater, Patricia (John) Boderick, Michael (Wanda) Willhite, 12 grandchildren; Eric, Samantha, james, Meghan, Melanie, Michelle, Tammy, Karan, Keven, Michael, Melissa, and Nicholas, 26 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great-grandchildren and 2 siblings.

Services were held at Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home in Clearwater Florida and **** in Michigan. Jim's ashes will be placed with his wife's on their Michigan Farm.

      All who knew him would agree that James was a pillar of the community. He lived his life with his feet firmly on the ground. He had a strong work ethic, was pragmatic in his thoughts and acts, and constantly sought the means for self-improvement. He was willing to share his ideas and knowledge for the benefit of others, so that they could accomplish more in their lives.

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"Grandpa was such an awesome man. My heart goes out to you and your families." Nikki Ross (FL)

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Tampa Bay Times
WILLHITE, James Floyd "Jim" of Pin-ellas Park, join-ed his wife July 7, 2014. Jim, born in Kentucky, and serv-ed U.S. Army during WWII. After the...

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