Cover photo for Donald Gary Whitehead's Obituary
Donald Gary Whitehead Profile Photo
1941 Donald Gary 2020

Donald Gary Whitehead

December 27, 1941 — December 18, 2020

Donald Gary Whitehead, 78, of Poolville, passed from this life on Friday, December 18, 2020, at peace and in the presence of his family’s love. A private family service will be held at Memory Gardens of the Valley Memorial Park in Weatherford. Memorials: In honor of Gary’s memory we ask that you consider a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association (https://www.alz.org) or the Wounded Warrior Project (https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org). Donald, known as Gary by family and friends, was born in Pottsville, PA to Donald Franklin Whitehead and Mary Ethel Whitehead (nee Sheaffer). He spent his early years shadowing his Pap Sheaffer, owner of the local lumberyard, and directing traffic in the Tamaqua, PA town center, much to the dismay of his mother (who waitressed at the corner diner). In the late 1940s Gary’s father moved the Whitehead family from coal country to Manville, NJ, where factory jobs were plentiful. It was here that Gary grew up playing baseball and basketball, hunting and fishing, leading ‘The Starlights’- his rock ‘n roll combo, and as a crew member of the local Sea Scouts troop on a WWII era PT boat. This is also where he met his lifelong friend, high school sweetheart, and wife of 59 years - Joanie Smith. In June of 1960, Gary enlisted in the Air Force and made his first trip to Texas (for boot camp in San Antonio). During his military career he was stationed in Greenland, Okinawa, Guam, Southeast Asia, throughout the US, and finally, Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, where he retired in 1983 at the rank of Captain. His duties included SR-71 photo equipment maintenance, Minuteman III missile launch operations, and nuclear safety instruction. Gary was a loving son, husband, father, grandfather, friend, and American patriot. He continually sought to better himself and his family’s lot through education and hard work - earning degrees from Chapman College and TCU - the first in his family to attend college. Gary enjoyed camping, sports, music, and laughter with his family and friends. He had a unique ability to tell a great story from his life and tie it into a lesson. Gary lived a rich life, and was a true blessing to all that knew him. He was preceded in death by his parents, Donald and Mary Whitehead. Gary is survived by his wife, Joan Whitehead; son, DJ Whitehead; daughter, Wendi Williams and husband, Jeff; and granddaughter, Sarah Williams. The family extends special thanks to the staff of Martin Crest Assisted Living and Memory Care in Weatherford and Kindred Hospice for helping fill Gary’s final year with love and dignity.
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