Faison Young Whitaker Jr.
By Kim Swindell Wood | June 24, 2018 4:31 am
Last Updated: June 24, 2018 at 4:34 am
Faison Young Whitaker Jr., 88, of Cookeville, passed away June 20, 2018, in Sparta.
Born on May 27, 1930, in Durham, North Carolina, to Faison Young Whitaker Sr. and Margaret Louise O’Kelley Whitaker, Whit was a proud member of the Durham High School Class of 1948.
Born with a passion to work and to serve, in 1950, he volunteered for the United States Air Force during the Korean War. As a radio repair technician, Whit was assigned to Hickam Field, in Honolulu. It was in Hawaii that he was married to his high school sweetheart, Martha Jane Johnson, on Sept. 4, 1952 – a marriage that would go on to last nearly 65 years.
Returning to the mainland after the war – and never afraid of new adventures – the new couple would find themselves in New Jersey, North Carolina, and later in Nevada, where, for the next 25 years, Whit would serve with distinction at the Nevada Test Site. Throughout his time there, Whit worked across a wide variety of vital engineering projects and programs – from underground atomic testing to aerial measurements to supporting the national Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST). His work took him to many destinations, too, from the hot sands of Yucca Flats to the Los Alamos national laboratory to the unforgiving Aleutian islands of Alaska – where he learned first-hand that gasoline can, in fact, freeze.
From his earliest years, Whit was fascinated by machinery – especially automobiles. At age 15, he disassembled and reassembled a junked Model A Ford in an attempt to make it run, kicking off what would become a lifetime spent as a classic car enthusiast and backyard mechanic. An outspoken and loyal “Ford” man, his most notable accomplishment was the complete restoration of an multiple-award-winning 1957 Ford Thunderbird. A long-standing member of the Classic Thunderbird Club International, Whit also held memberships in a wide variety of regional classic car organizations, too, leaving a legacy of amazing friendships from coast to coast.
After retiring, Whit and Martha Jane moved to Cookeville where they rediscovered the small town life they had enjoyed in their youth. Always one to seek out service, Whit was a deacon with Cookeville’s First Presbyterian Church and regularly volunteered for projects, ranging from elder-care to water purification for the rural poor – once again, leaving a legacy of amazing friendships in his wake.
Those who knew Whit will remember many things – his humor, his wit, and his passion for bringing a smile to the faces of those around him; his non-stop willingness to harmlessly flirt with any woman within arms’ reach; and despite a personality that was larger than life, his steadfast willingness to quietly and sincerely lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it.
Today, we know that Whit has been reunited with so many people who have passed before him. He is once again with Martha Jane. He is happy and healthy, and he most likely advising St. Peter to turn up the air conditioner thermostat in order to save a few bucks.
Whit is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Beth and George Wood; his son, Eric Whitaker; grandchildren, Chris Whitaker, Michelle Fairfield, James Fairfield; along with an extended family of nieces, nephews, and step-great-grandchildren – all of whom are grateful for his love.
A memorial service will be 11 a.m.-noon, June 29, 2018, at the First Presbyterian Church of Cookeville. Visitation will precede the service, 10-11 a.m. Following the service, all guests are welcome to join the family for refreshments.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the First Presbyterian Church of Cookeville, 20 N. Dixie Ave., Cookeville, TN 38501. The family wishes to extend our sincere thanks to the remarkable staff at Life Care Center of Sparta and to the medical and hospice staff who tended to Whit in the last days of his life.
Hooper-Huddleston & Horner Funeral Home, in Cookeville, is in charge of arrangements.