May 13, 1939 – July 20, 2019
William (Bill) A. Whitmer, 80, passed away on July 20, 2019 at Good Samaritan Healthcare Center, in Yakima, Washington.
He was born on May 13, 1939 to William (Tim) Wallace and Lola Edith Thiem (Wallace) of Springfield, Ohio. He was raised and attended primary and secondary school in Springfield, Ohio. When Bill was 13 years of age Floyd William Whitmer, second husband of Lola Edith Thiem, adopted Bill and his younger brother Gail. Floyd and Lola gave birth to a third son, Michael Whitmer. The Whitmer boys later sought a friendship with two half-sisters Barbie (Burton) Wallace and Vickie (Skaggs) Wallace.
On May 14, 1958 Bill volunteered to join the Air Force. After boot camp, Bill was stationed in Okinawa, Japan as a radar operator. The last half of his term was served at the radar base south of Othello (Radar Hill), positioned at the boundary of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. He served four years, entering as a basic airman and exited in 1962 as an airman third class with an Honorable discharge.
In 1959 he met Susan Diane Kanenwisher, a beautiful young Norwegian-German-American woman who had graduated from Othello High School. The story goes that they met at the Othello drive-in theater where Susan was working as a concession stand worker. It wasn’t long before Bill asked for Susan’s hand in marriage. They married in 1960 and began a family within a year. They gave birth to four children between them, to include Gayle, Scott, Brenda and David.
From 1966 to 1973, Bill held positions in Eastern Washington as warehouse foreman, farm seed production fieldman and farm manager. Bill attended BBCC and CWU in 1967-68 to study agribusiness courses. From 1973 to 1983 he worked for Northrup King Company. Bill and his family moved where his career needed him, living in Othello, Moses Lake, Ephrata, Royal City and Quincy, often in small farmhouses outside of small towns, sometimes being employed by the farmer-landlords.
His proudest career accomplishments were achieved to help promote best farming practices to support research in vegetable seed and plantago seed and guiding farmers in all phases of producing the highest quality vegetable seed. Bill also operated a small leaf-cutter bee business. Bill later became self-employed under Whitmer-Hunt Inc., demonstrating his wealth of knowledge in agriculture research. Bill finished his fieldman career with Cal-West Seed Inc. at age 62.
In 1976, Bill and Susan divorced. In 1986, Bill married Bonnie Britt and they had two children Courtney and Taylor. Bill and Bonnie divorced in 1988. Bill remained unmarried until his death.
Bill’s passions included his early career in the vegetable seed industry, self-employed research of plantago seed, motorcycle riding with his sons, fishing, gardening, flirting with local waitresses, daily phone calls with his brother Gail and meeting up with close friends, family and others at local restaurants to tell jokes and tell stories.
Bill is survived by his six children Gayle Bonato (Whitmer), Scott Whitmer, Brenda Morris-Whitmer (Whitmer), David Whitmer, Courtney Vogt (Whitmer) and Taylor Whitmer. He is also survived by his two brothers Gail and Bobbie Whitmer and Mike and Bev Whitmer and sister Barbie Burton (Wallace); grandchildren James Whitmer, Jennifer Mwangi, Grace Inge Whitmer, Hannah Susan Whitmer, Benjamin Wallace Whitmer, Johnie Buchman, Ryan Buchman, Niki Jones, Nina Marie Ziebart, Austin James Whitmer, Brandon Whitmer, Addison Vogt, Anderson Vogt, Charlie Cheney, Carter Cheney and Chesney Cheney and multiple nieces and nephews and 10 great-grandkids. He was preceded in death by two grandsons Anthony John William Bonato and Matthew David Bonato and one sister Vickie Skaggs.
A special thanks to the following: Good Samaritan Rehabilitation staff who cared for him as a patient and friend; Heart Links Hospice staff who ensured comfort and dignity; Fin and Anna Marie Clausen and the entire Clausen family who ensured Bill and Fin could continue to fulfill a purpose on the farm as visiting consultants through their ailing health; Brad Johansen and Kimberly Massa for the many fishing trips and visits to Good Samaritan in his last months of life; Kim (Delahunt) Cary for her devoted attention and care during Bill’s last months of life; and grandkids Grace, Hannah and Benjamin Whitmer and daughter-in-law Sylvia Vanourek for their devoted unconditional love for Grandpa Bill.
A funeral service will be held at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Othello Washington on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 at 12 noon. The memorial service will include a U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Service, followed by a reception with catered Mexican food in the dining hall of Pilgrim Lutheran Church. Any cards or letters before or after the service can be mailed to Scott Whitmer, 4710 Avalanche Ave, Yakima, WA 98908 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.