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 no-nonsense person who is tough-minded, dedicated and disciplined; James F. Willhite is that person. He is remembered as being highly organized, practical and realistic and 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 about. Everyone acquainted with Jim knew him as a well-respected man and a stable force in his community. Jim was born to Clarence and Mary Jane Willhite in Louisville, Kentucky. He was raised on his grandmother's tobacco farm and had three brothers and one sister, Chet, Clarence, Kenny and Doris. Jim was always good at following directions and meeting his schedules, whether set by his teachers or 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, graduating in a class of 6 students. Jim’s sense of duty drove him to join the military during WWII, proudly serving the country as a member of the U. S. Army. He was stationed in Iran and served as part of the occupying forces in Italy. After the war, Jim moved to Detroit Michigan to work with his brothers. There he met the love of his life, Virginia Hibbard, at Cunningham’s Drug Store...
When someone is identified as a natural leader, certain images come to mind. First thoughts are of a no-nonsense person who is tough-minded, dedicated and disciplined; James F. Willhite is that person. He is remembered as being highly organized, practical and realistic and 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 about. Everyone acquainted with Jim knew him as a well-respected man and a stable force in his community.

Jim was born to Clarence and Mary Jane Willhite in Louisville, Kentucky. He was raised on his grandmother's tobacco farm and had three brothers and one sister, Chet, Clarence, Kenny and Doris. Jim was always good at following directions and meeting his schedules, whether set by his teachers or 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, graduating in a class of 6 students.

Jim’s sense of duty drove him to join the military during WWII, proudly serving the country as a member of the U. S. Army. He was stationed in Iran and served as part of the occupying forces in Italy.

After the war, Jim moved to Detroit Michigan to work with his brothers. There he met the love of his life, Virginia Hibbard, at Cunningham’s Drug Store lunch counter. Jim and Virginia married on Sept. 4, 1948 and were blessed with six children: two sons, David and Michael, and four daughters, Sharon, Barbara, Rosemary and Patricia. An objective and conscientious individual, James reveled in the security of his family. He was ever watchful of his children and maintained a firm hand in their upbringing, enforcing rules as needed to ensure the children were properly raised. Jim and Virginia were further 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 sound decisions based on available information. Further, Jim was a team player who lived out the motto “give me a job, and I will get it done.” These talents ultimately hoisted Jim up to the position of Superintendent of Maintenance.

Jim, Virginia and their son’s built the tri-level Michigan farm house by hand, never going into debt during the construction as they built as they could afford to. Years later, Jim converted their barn into a single level home with a loft, making it 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 Café, entertaining countless customers with his life stories and anecdotal wisdom.

Jim's favorite past time was playing cards. He could be found most evenings playing pinochle, canasta, euchre or bridge with neighbors and friends. In fact, his card proficiency led him to be the dealer at several civic club Casino Nights and he was always 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. With an improved design that boasted a more powerful headlight, increased speed and superior steering, it allowed the pilot to have one hand free to use a spear gun.

When it came time to travel or vacation, Jim used his scheduling expertise to ensure everyone and everything was ready to go. He loved taking his family on Sunday drives and summer vacations. One such vacation entailed driving six children across the country 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, seven 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 a caring and generous man with both his time and knowledge. Further, Jim was an 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. Jim loved ice cream and adventures, whether it was learning to square dance, parasail, or flying an ultra-light plane. Always up to the challenge, on his 75th birthday Jim went skydiving. His 80th birthday was spent 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 Willhite passed away July 7, 2014 at his home in Pinellas Park, Florida with his daughter Rosie by his side. He fought, finally succumbing to bladder cancer. Jim is survived by six 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 a memorial took place at Karen’s Uptown Café in Hudson Michigan. Jim's ashes will be placed with his wife's on their Michigan Farm.

All who knew James would agree he was a pillar of the community, living 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. He will be missed terribly, but never forgotten.

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"Sending prayers to peace and comfort for my Pinellas peeps. Losing a parent is just so hard. I'm keeping you close in my heart, Patty, Rosie, Karan, Tammy,..." Anne Adams (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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